Statement from Fiona Lees, Chief Executive, East Ayrshire Council

The COVID-19 Pandemic has affected all of our lives, in ways we could never have imagined. Our normal routines and working environments have changed, we are spending more time at home, we are worried about our family and friends and we are missing special moments with them.  Almost all of us will now know someone who has had the virus and sadly, too many of us may know people who have died or who have lost loved ones. 

Life has never been more uncertain and that uncertainty takes its toll, bringing feelings of anxiety, stress and loneliness. None of us are fine all the time and these are entirely normal reactions. It is okay not to be okay, but when we and those around us do not feel okay, it’s important we know where we can turn to for support.

On our dedicated web pages you will find an array of helpful information, including hints and tips on looking after your mental health and wellbeing, advice on helping children and young people to cope, ideas for fun activities and links to other resources and organisations, where you can access further supports.  

Mental Health Awareness Week runs nationally from 18 – 24 May 2020 and with a focus on celebrating kindness, there could not be a more opportune time for us to recognise the kindness and compassion that lies at the heart of our local communities.   

Kindness and mental health are closely connected and the benefits of doing good for others can last long after the act, for us personally and the person we helped.   Kindness can give us comfort and support, reduce stress and loneliness and help improve our emotional wellbeing.  It can also give us a sense of belonging, helping to build community spirit and feelings of solidarity. 

In recent weeks, I have been humbled and inspired by the many examples of individuals and organisations giving selflessly of their time and resources.   Their stories have uplifted us, demonstrating the positive impact that kindness can have and showing that people are committed to helping one another, amid these difficult times. 

Across East Ayrshire, thousands of people have stepped up to do things for others and over 1,300 people have registered as volunteers.  Help with tasks such as grocery shopping, delivering food and collecting prescriptions are making a real difference for so many and other acts of kindness, such as phone calls to check-in on how people are doing and the manufacturing of scrubs and bags for health and social care workers, are also having a positive impact.  Local businesses are also helping charities and community resilience groups and some have even donated Personal Protective Equipment, for use by key workers.

For children and young people, the lockdown is especially challenging.  They are missing school, sports and other activities and they miss their friends and grandparents.  Despite all of that, they have shown extraordinary acts of kindness, helping to bring joy to others, including writing letters to those who are shielding and painting the rainbows which adorn windows throughout East Ayrshire. 

As we begin to look towards the future and the easing of lockdown measures, we will want to  make certain that we build on the kindness and compassion we have witnessed.  COVID-19 may be a global pandemic, but our response is local. Keeping our communities at the heart of everything we do is who we are and together we will get through this.  Stay safe and keep well.