PANDA has a duty of care to the wellbeing of both our service users and volunteers. One of our key responsibilities, in this context, is ensuring that potential volunteers are truly ready to take up the fulfilling, challenging work of volunteering with us. The first step is for you to consider where you are now, in your recovery journey from perinatal anxiety and depression or other challenges. It’s crucial that you are well enough recovered, such that you feel able to share your experiences through public speaking, and to facilitate groups of expecting and new parents to explore their own experiences. Our volunteer application process aims, in part, to explore these ‘readiness’ issues with you.
Having worked through your experiences
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’s crucial that you have worked through your symptoms and experience of anxiety and/or depression, and be sufficiently recovered that you can listen and ‘be present’ to other people’s distress, while managing your own emotional and mental wellbeing.
The role of Community Education and Training volunteer involves sharing your own story and experiences in a range of public settings. It also involves facilitating group discussions, during which people might describe confronting or distressing experiences or 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. Some people continue to experience episodes of anxiety or depression, 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
Consider your readiness for yourself and to discuss it with your family, friends or other supports.
Here are some questions it is worthwhile exploring:
- Is your main purpose to help people in the community and increase awareness of perinatal depression and anxiety?
- Does your passion to help others feel more important/bigger than your own personal experience?
- Can you listen to other people’s stories about perinatal depression/anxiety and not find yourself continually thinking about and relating their experiences to your own?
- 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 view your own experience as more positive than negative?
The application process and readiness
Our volunteer application process aims to explore these issues with you. We encourage you to talk about any readiness concerns you might have with Sarah Marlowe, our Community Education and Training Coordinator - firstname.lastname@example.org before submitting your online application. If you are then offered a face-to-face, 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 this process is our Community Education and Training 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. Many very successful long-term PANDA volunteers initially approached us before they were quite ready to step into this work. In our experience, 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 then volunteering with PANDA. The volunteer application process aims to be a supportive vehicle to help you explore these issues.
PANDA volunteer training is extensive, and trainees often find it very supportive and stimulating, but also challenging. Our trainers are skilled at perceiving if the training has triggered a decline in mental health issues, or if you are having particular difficulty dealing with some of the content. Support is offered, however such an experience might also mean postponing your training until you are more fully recovered.