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Unveiling Vinay Nair: From Engineering to Mental Health First Aid 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, patients to be transported, and courses to be delivered, there's a quiet force, who work behind the scenes, to make it all possible.  

Vinay Nair is one of those who is part of this amazing team. As a mental health training advisor, Vinay uses the transformative power of personal experiences to reshape the contours of mental health training.  

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 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. He found himself in a caring role, a situation that not only brought some challenges but also introduced Vinay to the public mental health system. In supporting their journey, he found himself facing with his own 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, the non-judgmental atmosphere; it sparked something profound within him. As he navigated through his own journey of self-discovery and healing, a seed of realisation took root, he could be the hope for others travelling through similar paths.   

In his role as in 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 often praised Vinay for his empathetic approach, for making them feel heard and valued. “I was getting feedback that I was the people’s person and then I thought: if people are calling 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 to figure out what it was that they wanted to do differently in their lives”.  

Armed with his newfound purpose, Vinay transitioned from studying part-time and volunteering at an advocacy group into the mental health space full time.  

Though his days as a counsellor might be sparse, his impact resonates through people’s lives. Vinay works in prevention and not in the clinical space. His focus is to help people prevent mental health issues from occurring, and if they do occur, then 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 Ambulance Victoria’s 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 the field of 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 the Mental Health First Aid Course delivered by St John, please visit: Mental Health First Aid Training Course Standard 2 Days (