Portsmouth mental health support officer shares story of trying to take her own life

A TALKING therapy officer is using her own experience to help support those facing a mental health crisis.

Thursday, 17th December 2020, 7:00 am

Andriana Petropoulaki tried to take her own life 10 years ago after struggling with being away from her family in Cyprus when she came to the UK to study health sciences in 2010.

The 28-year-old returned home but her mental health worsened due to a lack of support in Cyprus and she tried to take her own life.

Andriana said: ‘At 18 I decided to come to the UK to study, believing that I could get away from issues at home.

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Andriana Petropoulaki, a contact officer for talking therapy service PositiveMinds in Portsmouth

‘In truth, I found I was isolated and missed my family terribly, making it through the first year of the degree before heading back home.

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‘The effect was that my mental health worsened, to the point where I tried to take my own life. Luckily, I was unsuccessful, but my parents were unable to talk to me about it.

‘My mother did not have the confidence to talk to me about my emotions and there was very little mental health support in Cyprus.’

Andriana decided to return to the UK and worked in care homes.

She said: ‘It seemed that I was always trying to help others, in what could sometimes be extremely traumatic circumstances, all whilst hiding my illness away.

‘Eventually I took the step of reaching out for help and I was diagnosed with PTSD, anxiety and bulimia.’

Andriana is now a contact officer for talking therapy service PositiveMinds, a collaboration between Solent NHS and Solent Mind, and helps people in the city get the support they need.

She said: ‘The work I do now still brings me into contact with vulnerable people experiencing mental health crisis, but my journey enables me to connect with them on a personal level and build trust.

‘If you think someone is quiet or not themselves, ask them the question, offer to listen and stay connected.

‘You’ll never know how important your contact may be.’

What to do if you are having suicidal thoughts:

 Talk to your GP

 Phone 111

 Text SHOUT to 85258

 Call the Samaritans 116 123 or email [email protected]

Dr. Lorraine Bell, a consultant clinical psychologist and suicide prevention lead for Solent NHS Trust, said: ‘Everyone’s mental health journey is personal and important. We want everyone to know that mental health support is out there for any situation they’re facing.

‘However, we know that in the darkest of times, people may attempt, or die through, suicide. These instances can be triggered by a range of mental health, psychological and emotional factors.

‘In the UK, around 6,000 people tragically die by suicide per year.

‘Not only are 6,000 lives lost, but the impact of those individuals ending their lives prematurely has a massive impact on those left behind.

‘Those who lose a friend or family member from suicide can experience an increased likelihood of suicidal thinking, depression and anxiety.

‘Everyone can play a role in helping someone who is suicidal. Be on the look-out for anyone who may be thinking about ending their life and don’t be afraid to approach them. Just be a listening ear.’

The News and JPI Media has launched a mental health campaign, There For Each Other.

Over the next few weeks you will hear from a range of people about their mental health journeys, relating to a number of topics including Covid-19, veterans, suicide, financial stress, grief, domestic abuse and the impact of social media.

Health professionals, organisations and charities will be sharing the range of support that is available and how it can be accessed.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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