A FORMER prison officer who has been dealing with her own mental health struggles for 20 years has launched an online group to help others needing support.

Amiee Kujawa, from Northwich, set up Reach to Speak Out on Facebook last December and the group already has more than 170 members.

The 33-year-old told the Guardian: "It is a peer support group, so it is a bit like self help but with the support of others.

"Each week we focus on topics that are voted for by members – last week we discussed anxiety – and it is just a safe space for people to connect with each other."

Amiee was inspired by her own experience to set up the group.

She hopes it will give others the confidence to be open about their struggles in a non-judgemental environment where other members can offer support when it is needed.

"Since I was 13 I have struggled with my mental health," said Amiee.

Northwich Guardian:

Amiee has launched the group to support others

"Doctors thought it was just hormonal when I was a teenager growing up, but six years ago I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.

"That was when I finally started to understand what I had been struggling with – I overthink things, I worry, when anything goes wrong I take it personally."

Amiee is hoping to set up her own business to do with mental health, with a vision to create a mentoring internship for people who have been affected by it.

Her last role was as a social prescriber, linking people in need of support to organisations who could help, and she feels there is a gap in the professional provision that is available to help people in crisis.

Amiee said: "There were people who were coming through that needed counselling – it was a huge issue but there were no services there who could pick them up straight away.

"I would be working with them one to one and it was burning me out, so I decided I needed to take time for myself.

"Reach to Speak Out is a peer support group, and it gives someone to listen to help you manage your mental health until you can see a professional.

"But there really does need to be provision for counselling – especially for people with drug or alcohol dependency."

Reach to Speak Out is a private Facebook group, meaning only members can see users' posts, and Amiee hopes people will find it a place where people feel they can share their experiences.

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She added: "You are not on your own – please join the group. Everyone is welcome to join and it is completely non-judgemental.

"If you are in crisis get in touch with the Samaritans or your GP, and there are other mental health charities like Mind that can help too."

To see the group on Facebook click here.

If you are struggling, the Samaritans are available 24 hours a day by calling 116 123.