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A profile of Mary Hanna - Peterborough Mental Health Chaplain 

Mary HannaThe traditional role of the Chaplain is one that we have become used to seeing in organisations such as the armed forces and the prison service, however the growth of the Chaplain role in many other organisations illustrates the importance of this “all souls” ministry, so often seen as being on the margins of the Church but in the midst of society - exactly where the people are.

Mary Hanna is one of a team of three Mental Health Chaplains working for Cambridge & Peterborough Foundation Trust and is based at the Cavell Centre in Peterborough.

Mary has been in her current role for 6 years after spending most of her working life in health and social care  and is still  a registered social worker. Mary is passionate about social injustice and is especially interested in poverty and homelessness.  Mary has a degree in Health Care Chaplincy from St Mary’s University College Twickenham. She is currently studying for an MA in Christian Spirituality at Sarum College Salisbury.

Whilst Mary is a lay chaplain, the wealth of experience gained over many years working in health and social care made her the ideal person to fulfill the role of Bishops Advisor for Health Care Chaplaincy, an honorary role which Mary assumed this year and which she fulfills alongside her chaplaincy role in the Trust. 

The Mental Health Chaplaincy Team provides recovery-focused pastoral, religious and spiritual support to patients, carers and staff, regardless of whether they have a faith, religion, culture or creed – or none. 

Spirituality is not confined to the followers of a particular religion. It can be described as “breath”, the essence of human beings or what brings them to life and provides hopefulness, energy, direction and motivation in their lives. The identification of spirituality is, therefore part of the process of seeing and understanding people holistically, and plays an essential role in an individual’s recovery”.  (W Beeson, The Newsletter Aug 06)

Mary’s role is split between her time at the hospital and time supporting those in the wider mental health community, often in their own homes.  Much of the community work is centered on supporting people who have been affected by bereavement and helping them come to terms with their loss before the situation has a really detrimental affect on their mental health.  This is especially important when we hear that 1 in 10 people are waiting for longer than a year to receive talking treatments and more than half are waiting longer than 3 months.

Mary’s time within the hospital is spent building relationships with patients and staff alike.  Some patients may be suffering from psychosis or bi-polar disorder or severe depression.  Most will be grappling with many human, spiritual questions such as “Who am I?” “Where am I going?” “Can I even go on?” and “What do I believe in and hope for?”  Mary and the team are able to provide the spiritual support to help people take the next steps on their own spiritual journey.

The chaplaincy team also provides support for the staff who work in this challenging environment, helping them to cope with the stress of the role, and the changes that come about as a result of the current restructuring within the NHS.

Mary is certainly passionate about her work and for her this is not just a job  - she has truly found her vocation. 

Watch a short video about the Peterborough Mental Health Chaplaincy Service here

For further details please e-mail either or call 01733 776080.

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