Perinatal Mental Health Archives - PANDAS Foundation UK


Volunteers’ Week Spotlight: VICTORIA

“I have supported probably over 100 people now via the helpline and this makes me feel great that I can listen to and support others going through a tricky time.”

Victoria is our brilliant and talented phone line support volunteer.

1) Please tell us about yourself?
I am Victoria from south Manchester with partner Rob and twin daughters Emily and Grace. I am Re-training as a person centred counsellor at the moment and due to qualify in September 2018. I love being with my family, friends, eating out, cinema, theatre, travelling abroad.

2) How did you hear about PANDAS and what made you want to join as a volunteer?
I am not quite sure now how I heard about PANDAS but as a I was re-training as a counsellor I wanted to gain some experience volunteering for a mental health charity and PANDAS seemed the perfect choice as I had struggled with PND myself after having my twin girls so it was an area that interested me massively and I wanted to support others going through similar experiences.

3) What is your role and what do you do?
I am a telephone support worker and take calls from all kinds of people mums, dads, grandparents, friends, work colleagues etc – all people needed either support or advice about Postnatal depression (PND.) I volunteer one day per week and have been doing so for the last three years. It fits in perfectly for me as I can work from home taking the calls and usually use the time to crack on with college work while waiting for calls to come through.

4) Please tell us how you have supported someone?
I have supported probably over 100 people now via the helpline and this makes me feel great that I can listen to and support others going through a tricky time. I often find when a caller first comes on they are usually quite upset and distressed. It is clear the person is having a difficult time and making the call has been a big step for them. It is not long into the call that it is evident that having someone to listen to them, talk to them and let them know they are not on their own going through PND that the caller tends to become much calmer, more in control and more able to cope with their situation going forward. I offer a listening ear but I also signpost people to relevant organisations such as Pandas support groups, their GP for counselling or other support. I often find that people who seem to be struggling the most have had traumatic births, have little support around them such as family and friends and have had issues with depression before. We talk about how small changes can be made to their lifestyle so they can cope better with having a baby or small children, such as exercise, joining baby groups, having time out from the baby, talking to others or calling the helpline for support. I also like to encourage callers by telling them they are doing a fab job as being a mum or dad is one of the hardest jobs in the world but it does get easier!

5) And finally…
I love being a volunteer. I feel valued and I find supporting others rewarding and fulfilling. To hear on the helpline that you helping people to feel listened to and resolve an issue is great. I feel volunteering for PANDAS has enhanced my counselling skills considerably and given me a greater understanding of PND and how vital it is that it is taken seriously and people are given the right support.


Volunteers’ Week Spotlight: JESS

“There is a group of 6 mums who have all met within the group and have become firm friends. They have taken their babies for their first swims together and have also gone on a night out together.”

Jess is our wonderful volunteer who tells us about her, the progression within PANDAS and the mums she has met.

1) Please tell us about yourself?

I am Jess from Bristol with personal experience of Post-Natal Depression (PND) and Anxiety. I have two young boys and live with my husband on a Dairy Farm. I am an Occupational Therapist by background and a keen crafter and cake maker.

2) How did you hear about PANDAS and what made you want to join as a volunteer?

I initially wanted to volunteer with a PND support service in my local town, but found that although there were services in the city, there was nothing available for local families. I contacted a locally based organisation to offer to run a group for them and this offer was declined due to funding issues, so I then found PANDAS through online searches. PANDAS was great, because they supported me to set up my service with insurance, DBS check and training, but also colleagues within the network gave me ideas for free venues, group structure and promotion. The organisation has no head office so money raised is direct delivery to the service users and despite this I have felt part of a team from the start. I love the autonomy PANDAS gives to its Peer Support Group Leaders.

3) What is your role and what do you do?

I began as a Peer Support Group Leader which required around 4 hours per week of my time. This is because I run my group weekly, but other groups are fortnightly and monthly so plenty of flexibility. I have now progressed within the organisation to become South West Regional Coordinator which will require an additional 6 hours per week as the role develops. I am fortunate enough to work part time, allowing me to run my groups on a week day while my children are in school and pre school.

4) Please tell us how you have supported someone?

The aim of our Peer Support Groups is to facilitate friendship so that families will go on to support each other within their communities and outside of group hours. This is to ensure that our families do not feel alone in their journey through Maternal Mental Health.

There is a group of 6 mums who have all met within the group and have become firm friends. They have taken their babies for their first swims together and have also gone on a night out together. What I am most proud of is that they are reducing their isolation and supporting their recoveries through friendships with peers who truly understand. One mum told me that even on the weeks she can’t get out for anything else, she will always push herself to get to PANDAS as this is where she feels safe and relaxed with people who understand and do not judge.

5) Please tell us how donations, support and fundraising help the foundation?

Local fundraising supports us to deliver more community activities within our groups to promote sustainable recoveries. We are also responsible locally for our own service promotion and the championing of the Charity so need funding for this. Nationally PANDAS insure and support our Peer Support Groups, through DBS, training and supervision.

They also offer online and telephone support for those who are unable to access groups.

Fundraising is imperative to ensure no families go through this alone and that we move forward to break the stigma, that we champion “it’s OK not to be OK”

And finally..

I run Yate PANDAS, near Bristol. We meet weekly throughout the year, including during the holidays as we believe continuity is essential. We offer Peer Support to families, a listening ear, craft activities to promote mindfulness and there is always homemade cake.

We are facilitating friendships as we believe peer support is key to a sustainable recovery.

We are looking for committee members to support our aims and objectives and to help with fundraising events and planning.

We are looking for speakers, crafters or activities to offer taster sessions to our groups.

We are looking for sponsorship to develop our wellness packs to be offered to all new group members.


Volunteers’ Week Spotlight: ANNE MARIE

“That’s the thing about PANDAS, it not only supports women but then empowers them to help others going through the same”

Anne Marie is our fabulous email support and social media volunteer from Edinburgh. Anne Marie tells us about her background and what she brings to PANDAS.

1) Please tell us about yourself?

My name is Anne Marie and live in South Queensferry in Edinburgh, right next to the Forth bridges. I have three children, all girls and grown up with three beautiful grandchildren, who keep me busy. I am happily married to Kevin.

2) How did you hear about PANDAS and what made you want to join as a volunteer?

My daughter suffered with Postnatal Depression (PND ) and Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) last year after a traumatic birth. She took a long time to recover and then suffered with anxiety. She was diagnosed with PND. As her mum, I supported both her and her partner through this. Having suffered with PND with my second child, no support had been available then. After my daughter recovered, it was something I felt I could do, and had a lot to offer. I had followed PANDAS on Facebook and my daughter did the same.

3) What is your role and what do you do?

Currently I am an email volunteer on a Saturday and sometimes a Tuesday to support the group. As I work Monday to Friday it fits in easily with my work. I then took more volunteer work on as a social media agent, totally different to email, but I love engaging with our service users, and it’s so good for them to get an instant reply. I have also hosted the Twitter chat #PANDAShr on a Sunday evening. Although apprehensive about this, I really enjoy the engagement.

The balance with my job/family/career is great, its something I enjoy and I love being able to help people.

4) Please tell us how you have supported someone?

I have supported both my daughters through post natal depression, my eldest daughter suffered this 5 years ago, she didn’t realise she had it. She came up to visit me and I could see it. She went home and got support both through her GP and through PANDAS. Although she lives a long way away she knows I am always there for her, and when she had her second baby last year, I was mindful of this.

My youngest child suffered with this last year, it was hard being her mother and seeing her go through this. It was hard for me too, as my anxiety kicked in and to a point if I feel she is going through a difficult time it does now. It meant late night visits if she was anxious and her partner being young also didn’t understand what was going on.

I am so proud of her, she is thriving as a Mother and has started a new job.

5) Please tell us how donations, support and fundraising help the foundation?

We can’t help families if we didn’t have donations, they basically help us to help and reach more families.

Fundraising on a local level helps the groups to run and reach more people.

The generosity of wonderful people that help us to support families suffering with perinatal illness.

I would love to see PANDAS reach even more people and see more groups in more areas over the UK. I very often have service users on email say how when they are feeling better they would love to volunteer. That’s the thing about PANDAS, it not only supports women but then empowers them to help others going through the same.



Lucien’s Marathon

1) Please tell us about yourself?

My name is Lucien, 32 from France. I have been living in the UK with my wife Alix for almost 10 years and consider myself more English than French! Our son Oscar is 2.5 years old. I work in sports marketing, and apart from running, I enjoy sports in general, music and film.

2) Please tell us about your marathon?

My marathon was Sunday (9th April) in Paris. I’ve been training hard for the last 6 months, gradually building my training regime. I only started running 1 year ago, after 31 years of hating it!

3) Please tell us about your experiences of perinatal mental health and why you are supporting PANDAS?

It wasn’t something my wife and I were ready for. I don’t think anyone can be. But in my case, I had a misconception of what it meant. My wife was ,and still is- one of the strongest persons I know, and when it started few weeks after our lovely boy Oscar was born, I think both of us actually fooled ourselves into thinking it wasn’t that. It couldn’t be. She was just tired and it would pass. But it didn’t. Things worsened, to a point where I was fearing for her safety. Never our child’s. Remarkably and bravely Alix decided to get help and it was the best decision she could take.

I remember feeling this complete sense of being useless. I am used to making her feel better after 14 years together and I know what to say when she’s down. But this wasn’t “like before.” And we now know this isn’t something you can get out of without the help of professionals. This doesn’t make Alix, or anyone seeking help weak or weaker. Actually for me realising this is beyond your control and requiring professional help is a sign of strength. Alix received the help she needed from NHS professionals, who were absolutely amazing. But we wish at the time we’d known about PANDAS.

4) How can supporters follow your marathon and sponsor you?

I’m starting on Sunday around 08.55 UK time, and you can track me (my race number is 71199) here: You can support me (and PANDAS of course) by donating on my page:

5) Finally is there anything else you would like to add? 

To people reading this at that crucial point when you do not know if you, or a loved -ones is suffering from perinatal mental illness, and think it will go by itself, please do seek help. If nothing else ,you will get the chance to have a chat than can be more powerful than you think.

Thank you for reading and I hope to make PANDAS proud. I won’t set the timer on fire – but I’ll do my best.

Lucien is running a marathon in Paris on Sunday to raise funds for people suffering with perinatal mental health. We would like to say a huge thank you to Lucien for sharing his family’s story and for having the strength to train for a marathon.


Will’s Marathon

Meet our fundraiser, Will from East Sussex. Following the birth of his first child, Will’s wife Shauna suffered with post traumatic stress and post natal depression. Will has been training non-stop for an almighty marathon in Hastings in tough weather, all in aid of PANDAS. Please read Will’s amazing journey and how to sponsor him below!

Please tell us about yourself?  

I’m Will. I’m 33, and live in Worthing on the Sussex coast with my wife Shauna and two kids, Nova and Nate. Shauna and I have been married for almost 5 years now and Nova is 2 ½ and Nate is almost 5 months.  I love nothing more than hanging out with my family and taking them out to places that excite them. Each weekend we enjoy swimming at our local gym and we also like walks in the South Downs and visiting local farm attractions. 

As I’m originally from Devon I have a love for the sea and enjoy sailing, fishing  and running.  

Please tell us about your marathon? 

I’m running the “Hastings Half Marathon” East Sussex coast this Sunday, the 18th March 2018. Weather forecast has predicted that it’s not going to be warm! Reported that it could feel like -7° with a 30mph north easterly wind gusting up to 50mph with a slight chance of snow! 

At the time I decided to do the marathon it didn’t seem that daunting, but as my training has progressed it has become clear that it is actually a big undertaking for someone who had not done a huge amount of running. 

My training has gone well but not as well as I had hoped. Trying to fit in the shear amount of training around work, family and a 4 month old baby has been a challenge but I’m feeling positive about the race.  

Please tell us about your experiences of perinatal mental health and why you are supporting PANDAS with your fundraising? 

Following the birth of Nova, my wife suffered birth trauma, post natal post traumatic stress and depression. It was a very difficult time for us as a new family and it isn’t something that you expect to happen because you very rarely hear anything about it, until you’re in it. 

There are two main reasons I wanted to try to raise some money for PANDAS. One is that there seems to be a lot of misconceptions surrounding perinatal mental illnesses and not many people, such as family and friends really know how to help. The second is that in a way we were in a lucky situation because Shauna is a qualified psychotherapist so she already had knowledge about this area. I can only imagine how scary it must be to not have any clue as to what is happening during a time that is socially regarded as being one of the happiest moments in your life.  

Based on this I think the work PANDAS does is so important to such a large number of families and it needs to be more widely acknowledged. Hopefully my contribution may help in some small way. 

How can supporters follow your marathon and sponsor you? 

You can follow my journey on my Instagram account @willbeare and I also post on Twitter @Echo_Will and Facebook. So far I have managed raise over £600, which is incredible and the support all my family and friends have shown is overwhelming. If you would like to donate,  no matter how big or small, I have a fundraising page on Virgin Money Giving – 

Will has also for the last 10 years been building his video production company, “Echo Video” which is based in Brighton, East Sussex. Producing corporate and promotional videos for a wide range of businesses, from local artisans to multi-national organisations, we offer a full in-house service so we can take a video from conception right through to final delivery even if that involves time-lapse photography and aerial filming from helicopters and drones. Our website is if you would like to find out more about us. 

If you would like to fundraise for PANDAS please do not hesitate to get in touch with our fundraising team!  

Day 6 – Question #7

Question 7:

Do you have plans to invest in both the services and research surrounding perinatal illnesses?  Peer support is vital in helping to help families who are struggling with these illnesses, why isn’t more investment given to organisations who provide these services?

 CONSERVATIVE (The Rt Hon Grant Shapps) – Conservative

We have committed to investing £75 million over the next five years to give the right care to more women who experience mental ill health during the perinatal or antenatal period. We have also developed a plan to support women with postnatal mental health problems which will share best practice and learning with the NHS and are investing in the training of specialist staff to help support families who need it.

LIBERAL DEMOCRAT (Norman Lamb) – Liberal Democrat

Absolutely. As we have set out, perinatal mental health is going to continue to be an area we focus on in the next government. Building on the £50 million funding we secured in the March 2015 budget, we will continue to invest in perinatal mental health services across the country to ensure that pregnant women and mothers know that specialist mental health support is available when they are struggling to cope. This funding will pay for expanding existing services – and creating new ones – staff training to build better awareness of perinatal mental health issues across the NHS, as well as delivering support to voluntary sector organisations who often provide absolutely vital support. We will also be investing £50 million in mental health research to ensure that we are funding the most effective treatments and can help as many people as successfully as possible. 

GREEN PARTY (Jillian Creasy) – GreenWe support a fully funded NHS providing a high standard of evidence-based care in all areas of medicine. We are also planning a significant increase in investment in scientific research. The allocation of funding to different subjects will be determined by independent experts under government guidance, but could include perinatal illness and care. We agree that peer support is useful for families and that is worth supporting voluntary organisations which foster it. But this must not be at the expense of the NHS. In our view, ideally NHS midwives, health visitors, and Surestart/Children’s Centre organisers would run groups which bring people together to support each other. The NHS and children’s services have been hit hard by cuts but the Green Party would increase funding for local authorities and the NHS so that they can provide this kind of service. We have spoken out against cuts to the NHS and local services from day one, and will continue to do so.

TUSC (Hannah Sell) – TUSC

Research is crucial to keep improving practice in perinatal care so investment in this would be a key plank of our approach. Investing in these services is vital to ensuring that children get all of their needs met and that they are safe and that each and every parent is properly supported to be the best parent that they can be. Perinatal Services would be commissioned based on the needs of the population. We would shift the emphasis of services towards early intervention and prevention. Socialist policy would also tackle the social issues such as poverty, poor housing and lack of community services that contribute to the development of paternal mental illness. We would look at peer support closely and we would wish to develop this service and ensure that people who choose to work in this service work are paid a living wage and that they access training and further support to develop the scope of the role even further.

PLAID CYMRU (Heledd Brooks-Jones) – Plaid Cymru

We want to make Wales a centre for research excellence, and would work to ensure that Wales receives its share of health research funding, attracting quality researchers to Wales.  At present, Wales is starved of funding. We are the only party calling for parity with Scotland in terms of funding, which would equate to an extra £1.2bn per year. This would make a drastic difference to our public services, and would ensure that those in need are not unnecessarily penalised. 

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