4 September 2017
My name is Carolyn Spring and I’m the founder and director of PODS. Many of you may have been on my training or read my book or something else that I’ve written.
I want to bring you up-to-date with what’s going on for us at PODS, a bit of background, and then a plea for help – help to keep PODS alive.
LET ME TELL YOU A STORY …
So for those of you who don’t know me, my life fell apart, literally overnight, in 2005. I went from being a competent, capable professional – a foster carer with many years’ experience looking after extremely vulnerable and damaged children and babies – to almost entirely ceasing to function. In layman’s terms, I had a ‘breakdown’. More specifically, for years I had kept the awful abuse I had suffered as a child out of mind – I dissociated it – as the only way I knew of coping with it. And then, that day in April 2005, the walls in my mind imploded and I was overwhelmed by flashbacks, nightmares and night terrors, intense and unbearable distress, depression and a deep, deep need to kill myself.
I didn’t know who to turn to at the time. It took a year before I stumbled across a counsellor who was willing to work with me. She didn’t know what was going on with me much more than I did, but together we inched forwards and I eventually received a diagnosis of dissociative identity disorder.
But even with a label – an explanation for my symptoms – I didn’t know who to turn to. How I’d have loved for there to have been a helpline, someone to explain to me what was going on and to point me in the right direction. How I wish there’d been things like the ‘Emergency Information Cards for DID’ that we now produce. How I wish there’d been resources like our ‘Information Leaflet for Professionals’ and our ‘Dissociation Resource Guide’. How I wish I could have had peer support in a supportive online forum, gone on training, and read about others’ experiences in a professionally-produced magazine. How I wish there’d been a website that drew together articles, links, research and all these resources. How I wish I could have carried around with me the ‘mantra cards’ that we have recently published.
THE BIRTH OF PODS
Well, instead of bemoaning that most of these things didn’t exist, I set about doing something about it, and in 2010 PODS was born. Now, seven years on, our mailing list exceeds 25,000 people, and 75,000 people a year are accessing our website, looking at over half a million pages. Half a million! Each month we’re taking over 50 helpline calls, even though the helpline itself is only open for a few hours a week, and we’re responding to hundreds of emails. We’re providing a further 45 people a month with details of ‘dissociation-friendly therapists’ in their area, and providing screening assessments to over 75 people a month. We’ve distributed in excess of 10,000 ‘Emergency DID Information Cards’ and nearly 5,000 of our ‘Information Leaflets for Professionals.’ Our magazine goes out in hard copy to over 1500 people each edition, and tens of thousands of people read it online or as a PDF.
In short, we’ve been really busy.
And the more people we’ve helped, the more people have got to know about us, and the more people have needed our help. We’re a really small team – there are only three of us full-time – and what I’ve told you about so far is only the support side of things. I haven’t even mentioned all the training we do, or the resources we publish.
OUR FUNDING CONUNDRUM
The incredible thing, as far as I’m concerned, is that we’ve been largely unable to raise any funding for what we do. We’ve submitted a tonne of grant applications – for some, we’ve been too national, for others too local. For some, we’re not working with the ‘right’ people (dissociative survivors just aren’t in the news), for others we’re not unique enough. For some, we raise too much of our own income, for others we’re not self-sustaining enough. The whole thing has been time-consuming and discouraging, and all along I’ve resented spending time filling in spurious grant applications when I could be getting on and helping people instead. It’s a story that’s familiar to many people in the voluntary sector.
Since 2011 a massive support to us has been our ‘Friends of PODS’ scheme. We just asked for £20 or £25 a year, and in return we sent out our magazine, ‘Multiple Parts’ and a slew of other benefits. The problem for us as we’ve grown is that £20 or £25 a year doesn’t come anywhere near to helping us run the programme of support we do.
AND THEN THIS CHANGED EVERYTHING …
Then, right at the beginning of this year, we suffered a serious hacking attack on our website. Fortunately, no personal information or data was stolen or breached, but the impact on us was nevertheless debilitating. For the sake of someone scoring some hidden links to a certain pharmaceutical product to improve their search engine ranking, we were very nearly closed down just as we started the year. We worked incredibly hard over the next couple of months to recover all the data we’d lost, to restore the site, and to restore our reputation, but the whole thing probably cost us somewhere in the region of £25,000. It was – as you can imagine – devastating.
On an ongoing basis, it’s also increased our costs significantly. The more well-known we are as a website, the more vulnerable we are to such future attacks. So we’ve had to spend a lot more money on upgrading our security, which was and still is a cost that – as a tiny charity – we could do without. But hacking is here to stay, as the NHS and other big companies have also discovered, so we just have to roll with the punches. On the upside, it’s led to us developing a shiny new website which is super reinforced, stuffed full of content, and also … quite pretty. 🙂
Eight months on from that attack, we’re now at the point where we cannot continue on the same financial basis as previously, and we need your help to stay alive. After much discussion, we’re therefore appealing to our current – and new – supporters to help us out.
FRIENDS OF PODS – PLEASE SUPPORT US
Our current ‘Friends of PODS’ scheme costs almost as much to administrate as we receive from it, because at the end of the day £48 a year doesn’t go very far. Being an annual donation, it also means that our income throughout the year is very bumpy – some months bring in almost nothing at all, which is a real headache for us on a cashflow basis.
We’re therefore asking you to support us on a monthly basis at a level which we’ve calculated will allow us to continue to operate, and hopefully to continue to expand – a minimum of £4 a month. Regular monthly income will help us out enormously, and it still amounts to less than £50 in the year.
If you’d like to donate more, we’d be ecstatic, and so there are options to do that. There are also options for one-off donations in addition to the monthly payment – if you have resources to spare or have received a windfall such as an inheritance, please consider investing into our work to empower those who have been made powerless through abuse.
Things have become so serious for us that at our last Trustees’ meeting we debated closing PODS down completely. It’s something that I’m dead against – I feel that we do a lot of good work, and we’d leave a massive chasm if we just ceased to exist. But realities are realities and we can’t keep running at a loss. In the end the Trustees agreed that we’d keep going as long as we are able to raise sufficient support from our Friend of PODS scheme. So we’ve costed it out and that’s why we’re setting the minimum monthly amount at £4.
Will you stand with us and help us? We’re only asking for the equivalent of a posh coffee or a meal deal a month but with that money, we can help to transform the lives of many, many people.
WHY IT MATTERS
Here’s what Dr Gordon Barclay, a Consultant Psychiatrist in the NHS in Scotland wrote to us recently in an email, which we share with his permission:
I am aware of the great contribution that PODS has made to mental health in the UK already, but I do have a sense that this is just the beginning, as there is an aching chasm of ignorance and I’m afraid to say, prejudice, in the field right now, but I do think that this will change. And of course I could mean anything in referring to such ignorance, and don’t only mean about DID, but rather about the trauma paradigm and a better understanding of the prevalence and phenomenology of dissociation in general. And I think that all the work you have done already, and what you have put out there already, will have an even greater impact when that change begins to pick up momentum, although I am fully aware that that impact is already massive indeed for the folk, like my patients, who have already accessed PODS in whatever way they have.
Keep up the amazing work, team, and thank you on behalf of the profession, even if that is at least in part, or maybe largely(!), a sort of anticipatory thanks for what has yet really to be fully engaged with, because when that begins to happen more fully you will rightly be perceived and I’m sure be recognised to have been and to be very much in the vanguard of creating changes in attitude and education which are sorely needed.
HELP US EFFECT THAT CHANGE
Will you help us effect that change?
If so, please click the button below, either to join us as a ‘Friend of PODS’ for the first time, to increase an existing subscription, or to make a one-off donation.
If you’ve read this far – thank you. Let’s work together and keep PODS afloat.
With many thanks
Director of PODS