Recovery and resilience
Every person’s recovery journey is different. Your experience might have been relatively recent, or many years ago. And of course, different people recover by drawing on different kinds of supports. Whatever your experience has been, to volunteer with PANDA, it is crucial that you have worked through your symptoms and experience of anxiety, depression and/or other challenges, and that you are sufficiently recovered that you can listen and ‘be present’ to other people’s distress, while managing your own emotional and mental wellbeing.
Being a Peer Support Volunteer will involve listening to people describe confronting and distressing experiences and feelings. Good support and debriefing is always available, but a basic level of resilience and ‘robustness’ is essential in order to do this work.
Having good supports around you
Everyone needs good support, whether from family, friends or health professionals. At PANDA, we talk a lot about the importance of self-care and seeking support when needed. This is crucial for our staff and volunteers, as well as for those seeking support via the National Helpline.
Some people continue to experience episodes of anxiety, depression or other difficulties well after recovering from their perinatal experiences. If this is the case for you, it does not preclude you from volunteering with PANDA. However, it makes it particularly important that you have strong ongoing support networks and resources, and are well able to seek support from them as needed.
Questions to ask yourself
If you are interested in applying to volunteer with PANDA, the first step is to consider your readiness and to discuss it with your family, friends or other supports. Here are some questions it is worthwhile exploring:
- Do you still have a strong need or desire to talk about your own experience of perinatal depression/anxiety or other challenges?
- Does your passion to help others feel more important/bigger than your own personal experience?
- Is your main purpose to help people in the community and increase awareness of perinatal depression and anxiety and other challenges in the perinatal period?
- Can you listen to other people’s stories and not find yourself relating to your own experience constantly?
- Do you find yourself thinking, ‘if only’, ‘what if I’d..’ ? Is your own experience still in the here and now, and not in the past?
- Do you now view your own experience as more positive than negative?
These questions may help you think about whether now is the right time for you to volunteer as a TSW
The application process and readiness
It is difficult for anyone to fully judge for themselves how this work might be challenging. Our volunteer application process aims to explore these issues with you. We encourage you to talk about any readiness concerns you might have with the Volunteer Coordinator, before submitting your online application. If you are then offered an interview, we will explore readiness issues in depth. If you are successful following a referee check, you would then be offered a place in our training program.
One possible outcome of the application process is our Volunteer Coordinator suggesting that you are perhaps not yet ready to undertake this work, and would benefit from more time or support before stepping into it. Sometimes people who have experienced perinatal anxiety and depression or other challenges can feel very passionate about helping others, while not yet being fully recovered themselves. Often, volunteers have benefited from waiting a little longer and/or seeking more support for their recovery, before stepping into training and volunteering with us.
PANDA volunteer training is extensive, and trainees often find it very supportive and stimulating, but also challenging. Sometimes trainees have difficulty with the content which can lead to a decline in mental health support is offered, however, such an experience might also mean postponing your training until you are more fully recovered.