Interview with Paul Raymond, Irish Chaplaincy
“I manage the Irish Chaplaincy Seniors Project. The Irish Chaplaincy is a charity supporting older people, prisoners and their families and Irish Travellers. Based in Camden, we provide pastoral outreach, befriending and advocacy for isolated and vulnerable older Irish people.
I originally came to VAC several years ago and attended mental health training. I realised the great value of VAC’s training for both myself and our volunteers to help us in our work. I’m now involved with VAC as a Mental Health Champion and Community Advisor for the Mental Health Team’s work with older Irish men. The Mental Health Champions Project is embedded in the work I do. It’s also given me the opportunity to share and learn from the experiences of other Mental Health Champions from different faiths and cultural backgrounds. This has been of huge value to me and emphasises the role of culture and faith in mental wellbeing. Being able to explore those topics with VAC has enabled us to clarify our focus and helped us to train our volunteers.
VAC’s mental health training has helped me to give appropriate advice when I talk to people about stigma and mental health. It’s also helped me to develop my own mental health awareness. I’m now more aware of colleagues’ and volunteers’ wellbeing and how to start conversations about mental health. The crucial gain for our volunteers is that they are better able to look after their own mental health, as well as being better equipped to support their clients, signpost them or simply start a conversation about mental health and wellbeing. Our volunteers are now more aware of what sort of questions to ask, whether they might need to increase visits or signpost their client to an appropriate service.
I personally feel in a more supportive environment, knowing that VAC’s Mental Health Team understand the work we do. VAC really understands the importance of what we do in terms of the mental health of our clients. Not all organisations have this understanding so we often find that we have to keep explaining our work to others. Having that partner support is so helpful.
VAC has also helped to make me feel more confident about liaising with mental health professionals and social services, strengthening our advocacy work and, if necessary, questioning their approach to our clients. So, for example, if we feel people are not getting the support they deserve and need, we will challenge that.”