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Compassion, COVID-19 and cultural attitudes towards mental health

mental health awareness week nature theme

The following haiku was written by our teammate Christina* in honor of Mental Health Awareness Week (10-16th May), we wanted to acknowledge how the COVID-19 pandemic has deteriorated mental health globally. 

May 9th is also Mother’s Day in Japan. During lockdown, founder/designer Yumi began disassembling her mother’s kimonos, which helped her reconnect with her family, her cultural heritage but also herself in these times of isolation. Our interest in sparking meaningful interpersonal and cross-cultural dialog means we cannot overlook how differently cultures deal with mental health issues. While mental health has become less taboo in many Western cultures in recent years, in Japan mental health continues to carry a stigma, which further burdens victims and their loved ones. 

In Japanese society, struggling with mental health is conceived as something shameful because it represents an inability or a lack of willpower to control oneself. In that sense, the expectation is that patients or their families, rather than professionals, should deal with these issues. Though treatments are available, nearly two-thirds of patients never seek out professional help.

In the face of rising suicide rates, Tetsushi Sakamoto was named as Japan’s first Minister for Loneliness by Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. Indeed, in October 2020, Japan experienced a 70% increase in female suicides alone. Similarly to the UK, Japan has adopted measures to address loneliness amidst the pandemic.

The WHO reported that over 264 million people of all ages suffer from depression worldwide, but many do not receive treatment due to stigma, discrimination, and neglect.

As lockdown comes to an end in the UK, Japan’s situation is a kind reminder that COVID-19 is a global issue and we must keep exercising compassion and looking out for one another. 

In July 2020, a KFF Health Tracking Poll reported the stress associated with the pandemic was prompting negative impacts on wellbeing including difficulty sleeping (36%) or eating (32%), increases in alcohol or substance use (12%), and worsening chronic conditions (12%). In the long-run, the pandemic also increases exposure to isolation and job loss, which are associated with poor mental health outcomes.

Between March 2020 and February 2021, in the UK loneliness rose from 10 to 26%. Even during the summer of 2020, when most restrictions were lifted, reported loneliness did not return to its pre-lockdown levels.Combating loneliness is crucial for mental health because human connections provide us emotional support and allow us to cope better. In February 2021, 13% of surveyed UK adults reported having thoughts about suicide in the previous two weeks, an increase of 5 points from April 2020. 


To extend our commitment to sustainability in our personal sources of energy (Ki), we give back a percentage of proceeds to the mental health charity Mind. Read more about their everyday tips for dealing with mental health and for helping others around you and check out their guides for hotlines and support.

* “A writer with a tendency to look at human fallibility and the emotions that haunt us, Christina Sophie Tring is a poet and prose writer that is focusing on multiple projects this year to build her catalogue of work” 

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