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26 Mar 2024

Unveiling Vinay Nair: From Engineering to Empathy Advocate at St John Ambulance

Unveiling Vinay Nair: From Engineering to Empathy Advocate at St John Ambulance

In the busy day to day life at St John Ambulance, between hundreds of events to be covered, rosters to be fulfilled, volunteers to be recruited, emergency calls to be responded, and courses to be delivered, there's a quiet force, who work behind the scenes, to make it all possible.

Among these amazing people is Vinay Nair, whose journey from engineering to empathy has reshaped the contours of mental health training. As a mental health training advisor, Vinay's story is not just about professional evolution but a testament to the transformative power of personal experiences.

Born overseas, Vinay embarked on his journey to the Land Down Under in 2003 as an international student. Armed with a degree in Engineering and a Master's in Information Systems, he followed the path of technology, a field he thought would define his career trajectory. However, life had a different script written for him.

A few years into his academic pursuit, fate unfolded an unexpected chapter. His partner faced mental health issues, a situation that not only brought some challenges to their lives but also introduced Vinay to the public mental health system. In supporting his partner, he found himself facing emotional turmoil, a realisation that directed him towards seeking support and better understanding.

It was within the confines of a counsellor’s office that Vinay found refuge. The compassionate listening and the non-judgmental atmosphere sparked something profound within him. As he navigated his journey of self-discovery and healing, a seed of realisation took root: he could be the hope for others travelling similar paths. “I felt like I could do that for others as well. I wanted to make the voices of those struggling with mental health issues be heard”.

In his role in IT - Information Technology, Vinay discovered his real passion. Engaging with clients wasn't merely about troubleshooting software glitches; it was about connecting on a human level, about offering empathy and understanding in a world often filled with technical jargon and cold interactions. Clients frequently praised Vinay for his empathetic approach and for making them feel heard and valued. “I was getting feedback that I was the people’s person, and then I thought: if people call me a people’s person, maybe I will pursue it”.

With each counselling session, Vinay found himself drawn deeper into the field of empathy and understanding. The monotonous buzz of IT faded into the background as his passion for mental health advocacy surged to the forefront. He realised that his journey wasn't just about navigating through codes and algorithms; it was about deciphering the intricacies of the human psyche, about extending a hand of compassion to those in need. “I tried to help them figure out what they wanted to do differently in their lives.”

Armed with his newfound purpose, Vinay transitioned from studying part-time and volunteering at a reference group to working full-time in mental health.

Though his days as a counsellor might be sparse, his impact resonates through people’s lives. Vinay works in prevention rather than clinical space. His focus is to help people prevent mental health issues from occurring, and if they do occur, he sees it as an opportunity. “I try to see that as some sort of breakthrough, which means that people need to do something different in their lives.”

Drawing from his own experiences and insights, he has played a pivotal role in shaping St John’s Ambulance mental health courses, infusing them with a blend of empathy, understanding, and practical knowledge. His work has been around teaching trainers how to deliver mental health courses and how to engage with clients who have experienced mental health issues. “My driver behind joining St John Ambulance was because it’s such a well-known organisation, so this gave me the opportunity to work in a space where I could look at a holistic approach. We don’t only want to talk about physical first aid but also emotional first aid. We need to remember that our staff and volunteers are exposed to a lot of things that can impact their mental health too”.

Vinay Nair's journey is a testament to the transformative power of personal experiences. From engineering to empathy, he embodies the essence of resilience and compassion. As he continues to chart new horizons in mental health advocacy, Vinay stands as a hope, a reminder that sometimes, the most profound transformations rise from the depths of our own experiences.


For more information about St John Ambulance Mental Health Courses, please visit Mental Health First Aid Training Course Standard 2 Days 

Vinay will speak on the 23rd from 12:40 to 13:00 at the Spotlight Stage on Understanding the link between mental and physical first aid.

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