WE TAKE mental health very seriously at East Hampshire District Council, both for our staff and councillors and for the residents we serve.

Last week was Mental Health Awareness Week, a national movement aimed at encouraging people to speak up if they are struggling to cope.

Of course, this issue has become even more important during the coronavirus lockdown as people have been separated from their families and friends and the things they relied on for their mental well-being.

Even before the virus struck and turned our lives upside down this was one of my top priorities.

In 2019 we put aside £1 million for community projects that support mental health in residents and projects that reduce social isolation. Two issues that have been pushed to the forefront of everyone’s minds now.

Incidentally, we added a third criteria last month and have called for projects that support the recovery from coronavirus.

Community groups have until the end of May to apply for these grants and they can find the application forms on our website: www.easthants.gov.uk/supporting-communities-fund

As a council leader and as a businessman I know that a fit and happy workforce is the backbone of any successful organisation, so their physical, mental and emotional health is vital. These are challenging times for all of us and everyone’s situation is different but there are things you can do help yourself.

EHDC staff have been circulating tips on how to look after yourself at this difficult time and I wanted to share them with you because they can work for everyone. Here are a few of my favourites:

* Phone a friend - If you are struggling to cope or if you know someone that is, sharing your experience can make a huge difference. According to the charity MIND keeping connected with family and friends online is the surest way to keep yourself on an even keel. But if you’re not tech savvy don’t worry. A phone call to an old friend is just as valuable. It doesn’t matter what you say, just talking together can make a big difference to your state of mind and to theirs.

* Ration your news! - The coronavirus situation is changing every day and it’s easy to get sucked into the constant news stories and social media updates. I keep myself informed but I try to limit the amount of news I watch or I find it can quickly become overwhelming.

* Take care of yourself - Don’t neglect your physical health. You don’t have to do the Joe Wicks workout (that’s not for me!) but do what you need to take care of your body and mind. I love to walk my dog and that gives me the chance to clear my mind as well as get some fresh air and exercise.

Our website www.easthants.gov.uk/mental-health-support has lots of useful contacts for local mental health charities and organisations. If you are struggling don’t hesitate to reach out and ask for help.