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Influencers using ‘be kind’ to defend trips to Dubai are damaging the mental health movement

It is inappropriate to use an important message to excuse a questionable ‘work trip’ to the Middle East

Hannah Priest
Thursday 28 January 2021 13:10 GMT
Influencer defends 'essential' trip to Dubai on This Morning

Over the weekend, health secretary Matt Hancock declared that no one should be travelling outside of the UK, placing explicit emphasis on party holidays to Dubai and other countries.

However, in an interview on This Morning Tuesday, fitness blogger Sheridan Mordew came under-fire after travelling to Dubai at the beginning of January, despite her local area being under tier 4 restrictions.

Mordew explained to viewers that her trip was essential for her to do her job and to provide “sunny content for her followers”. She went on to highlight how as an influencer it is her job to motivate her followers and to help with their mental health through her photos and content.

When questioned by presenter Holly Willoughby about how this attitude could be demotivating for those trying to follow the rules, Sheridan Mordew was quick to justify her actions with the phrase: “in a world where you can be anything, be kind”.

Willoughby continued to point out how her justification of “be kind” was inappropriate when the NHS and frontline workers are being stretched to their limits, and all we are asked to do is stay home and follow the rules, yet the fitness influencer appeared un-phased by the criticism and remained confident in her reasoning for her trip to Dubai.

As I watched the interview develop, I thought of all the people across the UK whose mental health has taken a dramatic hit throughout the pandemic. For all the people who have not hugged a family member in almost a year, for the parents trying to balance working from home with home schooling, and for all the front line workers who must be exhausted from their high-risk jobs. 

Although the government's definition of essential travel is vague there is a list containing essential working jobs, which does not include influencer work or promotional work. Nonetheless, it does state that you can travel for ‘business’ which definitely opens a loop-hole for individuals to justify their trips. 

It is important to point out that Mordew did mention that one of the main factors for her travels was to help her own mental health, as she acknowledged that her workout videos could have been filmed at home. Our own mental health and well-being is extremely important to protect, however, government guidelines do not allow individuals to fly in order to help their mental health, it must be for work purposes only. 

The message “be kind” has become the poster child for mental health throughout the last couple of years. The Be Kind Movement gained momentum after the suicide of Caroline Flack. The main message that got circulated was to be kind because you never know what someone is going through.

As the Be Kind hashtag circulated on Twitter, there was a real feeling that this message would resonate with people on a deeper level. However, after watching the This Morning interview I began to understand that this once positive and well-meaning message has been exploited by some influencers to justify arguably immoral actions.

It became clear that the message to be kind was clearly being used as a distraction tactic, because it is extremely difficult to disagree with someone about their own mental health. The repetition of the phrase “be kind” has in many ways become a “trump-card” for influencers to play when they land themselves in an uncomfortable situation.

Mordew was never subjected to any deeply personal criticism during the interview, she was simply questioned about her intentions and the overall necessity of her “work” trip. After several attempts to justify herself, and once it became clear that hosts Phillip Schofield and Willoughby had little time for her excuses, she decided to remind them to be kind in order to validate her reasons for travel.

In many ways, this is an inappropriate use of the be kind message, it’s important to acknowledge using the term in the wrong context could have a detrimental effect on the mental health movement. It cannot be used as a scapegoat for people to use to justify their actions and shield themselves from admitting their mistakes, because it will slowly start to diminish how seriously people take individuals with mental health conditions. It will remove the legitimacy of the movement as people start to identify it as an “excuse” and not something to be taken seriously.

It is not just Mordew who has broken the rules, many influencers have come under fire for their inessential trips to Dubai – indeed, many in the Love Island cast and lots of reality stars have been jetting off to the sun.

​However, it is time that they take accountability for their actions and apologise, instead of uploading PR scripted messages, which do not address the public’s concern and rather focus on asking their followers not to condemn them.

The Be Kind movement is important – it brings mental health awareness, but it should not be watered down. The Be Kind message cannot be used to protect or make individuals untouchable from their immoral actions, especially when they have broken one of the simplest rules during a pandemic.

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