Peer supporters’ experiences on an Australian perinatal mental health helpline Academic Article uri icon


  • Summary Perinatal mental health is an important public health issue, and peer support is a potentially important strategy for emotional well-being in the perinatal period. PANDA Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia provides support to individuals impacted by perinatal mental health issues via the National Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Helpline. Callers receive peer support from volunteers and counselling from paid professional staff. The views and experiences of PANDA peer support volunteers have not previously been studied. We conducted two focus groups and an online survey to explore the experiences of women providing volunteer peer support on the Helpline. Data collection took place in October and November 2013. Two social theories were used in framing and addressing the study aims and in interpreting our findings: the Empathy–Altruism Hypothesis, and the Helper Therapy Principle. All PANDA volunteers were invited to participate (n = 40). Eight volunteers attended a focus group, and 11 survey responses were received. Descriptive statistics were used to analyse quantitative data. All survey respondents ‘strongly agreed’ that they felt positive about being part of PANDA. Thematic analysis of data from focus groups and open-ended survey responses identified the following themes: motivated to help others, supported to support callers, helping to make a difference and emotional impacts for volunteers. Respondents described a strong desire to support others experiencing emotional distress as a motivator to volunteer. Although perinatal peer support services are designed to benefit those who receive support, this study suggests volunteers may also experience personal benefits from the role.

publication date

  • 2018