DORSET HealthCare is asking people to be kind during Mental Health Awareness Week and to help each other through the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

This year’s national campaign highlights the need for everyone to look after our minds, as well as our bodies, and the aim of the week is to promote good mental health through acts of kindness.

Together with Public Health Dorset, Dorset Council and BCP Council, the Trust will be sharing experiences of local residents and using the hashtag #KindnessMatters.

Weymouth resident, Gemma French-Millard, 30, is a carer for her mother, who has mental health problems after suffering abuse that led to brain damage. Her mother could be aggressive and was considered a danger to others.

While she took on the role of carer, Gemma needed some help from the Trust’s Steps2Wellbeing service, a confidential service for people experiencing problems with low mood/depression, anxiety or stress, to help her deal with the strains and pressures involved.

Gemma said: "I gave up a lot to care for my mum but it is an act of kindness that I would do all over again.

"When I started receiving support from Steps2Wellbeing they gave me a lot of emotional support and helped me over the phone when mum would have ‘a moment’, as we would call it.

"They helped me to see that all of my feelings were normal, and the support helped me feel less isolated.

"In lockdown there is not a lot of respite for carers. I would urge people to be respectful and kind, as you don’t know what others are going through."

Dorset HealthCare provides a range of mental health services across the county and has highlighted some groups in the community that additional support is available for. They include expectant mothers and their partners, parents coping with children at home, young people, older people, and carers.

Clare Hurley, Head of Adult Psychological Services at Dorset HealthCare, said: "The COVID-19 pandemic is a challenging time and people’s mental health will have been affected in various ways.

"Many people will be feeling lonely, isolated, stressed and anxious, so we must do all we can to look after each other and support one another’s mental wellbeing.

"If you are struggling, we are here for you. There is a range of support available and we will find what feels right for you. The first step is the hardest, but be kind to yourself.

"Overcoming your fear can lead to receiving the support you need."

For more information on the #KindnessMatters campaign and for advice for families coping with the pandemic, visit the Dorset HealthCare website.