A FORMER soldier who started his own personal training firm is encouraging people to check on their loved ones as lockdown hits people's mental health.

Hughie Benson, 41, started Pheniks Division, a training company working with young people, when he left the Army last year after 24 years of service.

The former Regimental Sergeant Major with the Royal Irish Regiment decided to focus his efforts on his new businesses to adjust to civilian life, working with children in schools to promote healthier lifestyles.

He said: "The one good thing about lockdown is that it's put a bigger focus on mental health.

"People are getting out and going outside, thinking about what will help their mental health which is great.

"Everyone's usually so busy and wrapped up in daily life but now they've got the time to focus on what's important."

Mr Benson has been working alongside Whysup, a local group visiting schools to discuss addiction and mental health, to visit pupils and teach them essential skills.

The visits encourage students to look after themselves both physically and mentally, to improve their health.

So far, everyone Pheniks Division has worked with is taking the new lockdown in their stride – but Mr Benson fears the next few weeks are going to hit people hard.

He added: "I think it's going to get a lot worse as well the longer it goes on – especially for the kids.

"The novelty of the first lockdown, the 'we're not going to school and have a six-month summer holiday' has worn off, the weather is poorer and they're not going out the house as much.

"Not only that, but I think the teachers are tired, they're struggling and things are understandably starting to get to them.

"They've got a lot on their plate with the kids and also their own lives – they're worried about their own families and themselves too. Who cares for the carers? Who looks after the teachers and the headteachers?

"We should all be thinking of one person we know and checking in with them to see how they're doing, it could make a huge difference."