LOOKING after our mental health has always been a priority, and never more so than during the lockdowns and the abnormal way of living we had to adapt to during the worst of the pandemic.

Better mental health services and parity of esteem between mental and physical health is an issue that I have long been championing. I am pleased that as a society we have become so much better at seeking support when we need it. I also welcome the extra £2.3bn of funding mental health services are receiving, as well as £2bn to address the backlog of waiting times.

I have taken up running as a way of not only keeping fit but also looking after my mental health. It was helpful for me during the lockdown, as part of what was preparation for the London Marathon. Unfortunately I tested positive for Covid a week before the marathon, and have been unable to take part for the second year in a row! It has been a huge disappointment.

I had intended to run in support of Black Country Mental Health. Based in a new hub on the Bushey Fields Hospital Estate in Dudley, they do great work to support people with mental health challenges including offering peer support groups. I had the opportunity to meet Nikki Wilkinson, one of those users, who told me about her anxiety and depression. Her story was inspiring.

Nikki is also a keen runner and ran the Marathon to raise money for BCMH too. I was delighted to cheer her on!

The impact of Covid has really hit home for me, particularly as it has also affected our family too over the last year. It is important we continue to take the virus seriously. By taking sensible precautions we can keep it under control.