MUCH of my week has been spent talking to the other frontline workers keeping Scotland going during the coronavirus crisis – the community volunteers, the grass-roots activists, the charities, the CICs.

In Glasgow, for example, there are countless groups and projects, already used to supporting the most vulnerable in society, who are finding new ways to continue providing that help in almost impossible circumstances.

They are delivering food and medicine to elderly people unable to leave their homes, with no relatives nearby to help; cooking and distributing hundreds of meals to ensure parents can feed their children; keeping young people entertained with gardening and arts projects they can do from home.

They are on the ground, talking to people, listening to their stories, providing a shoulder to cry on, and they know more than most how much this pandemic and its fall-out has impacted upon mental health.

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One woman in the east end, delivering food and soap parcels, was in tears sharing the stories of those she met and the grateful emails she had had in response, thanking her not just for the ‘material things, but for the invisible support…for every time you showed us love.’

Another, exhausted from days of delivering support parcels across the north of the city, told me mental health was in crisis – we are experiencing ‘mass loneliness’, she says, like she had never seen before in years of working with vulnerable people.

“Tackling this is not something that can wait until ‘after all this is over’,” she said. “It needs to happen right now.”

The Mental Health Foundation (MHF) has chosen kindness as its theme for Mental Health Awareness Week, which starts today.

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Kindness, says chief executive Mark Rowland, “strengthens relationships, develops community and deepens solidarity.” But we are not a kind society - the poor and vulnerable suffer most in times of crisis. Astonishingly, some of the volunteers I spoke to were even subjected to verbal abuse as they went about the business of helping people, providing that ‘invisible’ support which makes all the difference when you are lonely, or scared.

The MHF suggests this pandemic presents an opportunity to ‘reset’ society, to finally put wellbeing ahead of wealth. To make that happen, we should take inspiration from the community workers on the ground. We are not a kind society, but we could be.

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