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Mental Health Matters: My Experience With Postnatal Anxiety and Depression

Mental Health Matters: My Experience With Postnatal Anxiety and Depression

In this powerful first-person story, volunteer manager Megan Cassar reveals her traumatic experience with postnatal anxiety and depression following the birth of her first child, an illness that went undiagnosed for 18 months. Her struggle to successfully recover led Cassar to not only work as a volunteer to help break down the stigma of postnatal depression but to also rethink her role as a leader of volunteers who confront mental illness in the workplace. Cassar’s poignant insights into why and how volunteer managers can support those who are suffering will help all volunteer leaders set an example in the workplace.

“As leaders of volunteers, we have a duty of care to a diverse range of people,” Cassar writes. “We may not directly manage every volunteer in our organisation but, as the leader of those volunteers, we have a responsibility for them. We are their advocates. We want to ensure that our volunteers feel supported to be open and honest about their volunteer experience as well as any other experiences outside of the workplace.”

To read the full article

Mon, 07/15/2019
Thank you for sharing your experience, Megan. I've added October 10th to our departmental calendar.

Tue, 07/16/2019
Thank you for writing about your experience with PNDA in e-volunteerism, reminding us all that mental health is not separate from our professional lives. We can't simply leave it at the door when we enter our workplaces. My kid just turned 1 and I've been back at work full-time since January. One of my everyday challenges is being in a profession where others (volunteers and staff) rely on me to facilitate experiences and make decisions and then going home to do basically the same thing. It's been hard to keep those parts of my brain running nonstop but I'm learning how to take breaks and not hold myself to the same standards I used to before having a baby. It's definitely motivated me to connect with other new parents in my organization because it can feel so isolating. I appreciate your honesty in this article. Thank you again!

Fri, 07/26/2019

Hi Liza

Thank you for your comment. I'm so pleased that you appreciated the article. It's so important that we, as parents, connect with each other so I'm glad you are reaching out to other new parents within your organisation. Working full time with a child at home must be very challenging! It's so hard to take time out for yourself when you are the decision maker both at work and at home. I hope you get to find some "you" time every now and then and switch off that brain occasionally :) 

Wed, 12/11/2019
Hi Megan Thank you, again, for sharing your story and helping us all to remember we need to not only look after ourselves, but to create a safe space for our volunteers. We have been doing a lot of work around how we can be more inclusive, and I've learnt that different volunteers need different forums and opportunities to share their experiences so we can support them better. We really only used to ask people about any support or modifications they needed to volunteer in their application and left it open ended. We only discussed it if they wrote something down. A pretty scary option for someone who might consider disclosing an experience with a mental health issue. So we've now listed different ways people might need support, which includes support for ongoing or previous psychiatric/psychological issues, and we ask then to very specifically tell us how we can create a safe and supportive environment for them. We also sent out a retrospective survey to current volunteers about inclusion and diversity, which included this question. I was surprised that a volunteer who has worked with us for years, and had not disclosed any mental health issues, was able to share that we needed to provided a bullying-free environment for her to support her in managing PTSD. A real eye-opener. We've also had other volunteers disclose to staff they work directly with and develop a relationship with, rather than, when we hope they will, when we first interview them. Mental health management is critical, we need to provide safe working environments for our volunteers, and we have to cultivate them for ourselves. Thank you so much for being so open and vulnerable to remind us of this fact. I have also added October 10 to our calendar, and will ensure we run relevant activities and information sessions for our volunteers. Tracey x

Thu, 12/12/2019

Hi Tracey

Thank you for taking the time to read my article and for your comments. I like the sound of your inclusion and diversity survey and would be keen to see the questions, if you are willing to share! I am glad that it meant that your volunteers felt they were able to talk about their mental health issues, enabling you to provide them with the appropriate support. What a great way to show volunteers how much they are valued by supporting them in such a holistic way. 

Thanks for sharing :)