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Community Corner


PANDAS Foundation - Our regular spotlight on a grassroots VCSE organisation in the perinatal mental health sector



A group of brown and black mums gathered together with their babies and smiling


What is the name of your organisation and when did you set up?

The PANDAS Foundation, which was set up 11 years ago now.


Where are you based?

We are UK wide in England, Scotland and Wales.


What services do you offer and who do you support?

We support parents, carers and their networks in their mental health from conception, through to birth and beyond. We are an early intervention service. No diagnosis is necessary, and we support people with a range of issues from things like loneliness, isolation, low mood through to things like postnatal depression, intrusive thoughts and OCD etc. Our free services include WhatsApp and Email support, a helpline and online and offline peer to peer support groups.


What prompted you to set up in the first place?

The charity was initially set up to support women with postnatal depression, but we have diversified significantly since then to now support all parents and carers with a range of struggles affecting their mental health.


Do you run or plan to develop any services that reflect specific needs within your community?  

We are so proud to offer such a range of support services, and hope that doing so provides everyone with a means to support them depending on their preferred communication style.


  • Our WhatsApp support is brilliant for those who may be in a busy household as they can speak to one of our trained volunteers while on the go, or feeding their baby

  • The email support is brilliant for those who'd like a continuation of support from the same person - many liken it to having a supportive pen pal

  • The helpline and / or Zoom support calls are perfect for those who prefer that human / voice interaction, especially from the comfort of your own home if getting out is tricky

We also have more and more face-to-face, peer-to-peer support groups popping up around the country which we know many benefit from and are growing all the time.


What do you find most rewarding about running your organisation?   

It's amazing to know that we help and support so many people. We have supported over 10,000 parents and carers per year for the past couple of years which has been an absolute honour. So many of our wonderful, trained, PANDAS volunteers have also experienced some kind of perinatal mental health struggle, used our services and have recovered, which is why they now want to give back and volunteer to offer hope and support to others. We love this about our charity!


What have you found have been the benefits of being involved in the Hearts & Minds Community?

It's wonderful to be able to network with other organisations with such excellent aims and motivations and learn from one another in such a supportive environment.


If you could give all parents a super-power, what would that be and why?

We know that parents and carers struggle so much because we are all so resource and time poor. If we had more help and support then it would make things so much easier - so a super power would probably be to supply everyone with that village everyone says it takes to raise a child!


Is there anything about your service that makes it stand out from the crowd or offers something a little bit different?

We are so proud to offer such a vast range of free services, and also to have no cut-offs or age limits for those who come to us. We support parents and carers no matter what stage they are at, we have even been known to support grandparents who believe they suffered with postnatal depression in the past and want to talk it through, for example. We are also really proud to support and actively encourage support for men and dads. We know that dads can also experience perinatal mental health issues, and also that sadly there is still so much stigma around this. We are doing our best to smash this stigma and encourage as many dads as possible to come to us for support and advice.


What keeps you going when things get tough?

When things get tough, we always look to those we have helped recover, and to feedback from our services. There are so many beautiful stories of hope and recovery and it's a joy to have helped in that process. Our wonderful volunteers (of which there are over 120 now!), are another great source of joy, motivation and hope. Their dedication, passion and loyalty is an absolute pleasure to be around and makes us so proud!


 

Thank you so much to Sally Bunkham for giving us this insight into PANDAS and all of its incredible work supporting families. You can find out lots more by visiting the PANDAS website or emailing: sally.bunkham@pandasfoundation.org.uk / calling: 0808 1961 776


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