Almost three-quarters of Scottish adults say they hope the coronavirus pandemic will result in a kinder society, according to new research.
The study for Mental Health Foundation Scotland also found 62% of adults say that when people are kind to them, it has a positive impact on their mental health.
Almost two-thirds said being kind to others further boosts their own mental health.
The survey of 2056 Scottish adults, carried out between April 23 and May 1, was published to mark the start of Mental Health Awareness Week which this year has the theme of kindness.
Lee Knifton, director of the Mental Health Foundation Scotland, said: “The evidence for the positive impact of kindness on protecting and improving mental health has always been clear. Our own survey has shown there is powerful support from the Scottish public for a kinder approach.
“At one level, kindness can be as simple as phoning a friend who is lonely or thanking a colleague for something they have done.
“However, to have a major impact on improving our mental health we need to take kindness seriously as a society. In particular, we need to make kindness an important part of public policy.
“The pandemic is an opportunity to do that. Kindness can play an essential role in reducing the social, economic and mental health consequences of the crisis that could last for years to come.”
Carolyn McGhie, a GP based in Glasgow, said the kindness she has been shown by the community during the pandemic has been a huge support.
She said: “I have experienced a huge amount of kindness during this pandemic and it is no exaggeration to say those things have kept me going.
“For example, one of my lovely patients has made me scrubs and scrub bags – they are made to measure and are totally me as they are bright pink and flowery.
“Prior to this I had only one pair that I had purchased and I was having to wash and dry these nightly.”
The charity is now calling on all Scottish Government departments and local authorities to apply a “measurable and values-based” kindness test to current and new policies.
Mr Knifton said: “We need to challenge the idea that kindness has no relevance to government and public policy. Instead we want to start taking kindness seriously in how we shape political decision-making at all levels.
“Kindness has a role to play in how we run our social security services, how we treat people in our justice system and how we care for people right across health and social care. To achieve this, we need to include a fundamental test for all existing and new policies – are they kind?
“We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reimagine a kinder society – one that protects all our mental health and especially that of the most vulnerable.”
Mental health minister Clare Haughey said: “This survey shows how important it is to be kind and to look after each other, as well as ourselves, in these unprecedented times.
“Clearly the prolonged isolation necessitated by the response to the pandemic will be impacting on the mental wellbeing of people across the country.
“We’re doing what we can to support people through it and recently announced £5.8m of additional funding to create new online support services and increase the capacity of existing ones.
“We also launched our Clear Your Head campaign, which provides practical advice on how to stay active, keep connected with friends and family, and create healthy routines to help get through the crisis.”
Mental Health Awareness Week runs from May 18 to 24 and is now in its 20th year.