My name is Rachael Dobson, I’m 24 and mum of one, to my three year old son Andreas. Whilst pregnant and following birth I suffered depression (antenatal and postnatal depression). I found a lot of the time that I felt ashamed as a woman, a wife, and a mum. I couldn’t do all the things I thought I should be doing.
In June 2011 I discussed with my husband Stuart the idea of running a support group from our home, where families can come along for tea and a natter, safe in the knowledge that they are not on their own. I posted a comment on Facebook regarding wanting to set up a support network and in July 2011 was offered the opportunity by Richard Tisdale at BBC Radio Shropshire for an interview. Luckily it was pre-recorded, and too my amazement it went out in a four part interview on their morning program.
The response we received was amazing. I was sent emails from individuals in other areas outside of Shropshire asking what support is available for them. The when the Daily Mail online picked up on my story, we were inundated with phone calls, emails, and letters. My husband and I worked at the same company and even there media team was contacted to try and reach us.
In August 2011 we officially launched our PANDAS Foundation website, with the idea of offering advice and support to individuals and their families in Shropshire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire. I would make notes on what would have helped me and came up with email support and helpline, the email support was implemented first in October 2011, the Helpline followed in December 2011. Our original aim of running a support group wasn’t reached until the end of January 2012.
Throughout this time we were contacted by individuals and families across the U.K who were wanting support. I don’t remember the conversation where we decided to not limit our users to three counties and go national; it seemed to just happen nationally but on a rapid scale.
Within 18 months we had a Helpline which is available 365 days a year from 9am till 8pm, email support, national support groups, online community and website. I often get asked how have we done it, and too be honest I am not really sure, I haven’t had chance to think about what we have accomplished. All I ever wanted to make sure was that no one ever felt as lonely and isolated as I did. Suffering antenatal and postnatal depression is the hardest thing I have ever had to go through, trying to keep a persona alive to convince everyone around me I was this happy, laid back first time mum and all I was doing inside was crying.
Currently, we receive no grants or funding we rely solely on fundraising and the support of the general public to keep us going. It is a constant battle between our growth in services and the amount of fundraising we are generating. I want to ensure that PANDAS continues to grow and strengthen to become the UK leading pre and postnatal illness charity offering advice and support to individuals and their families.
I have the opportunity now to travel around the UK meeting inspirational families who each have a story to tell. The only time PANDAS will cease is when we stop receiving the emails and message thanking us for our support. I am proud that I am 24 and have co-founded a national charity to offer support to those who struggle.
PANDAS message is clear ‘Its OK not to be OK’.
I hope you can support us and help us continue to grow.