An Edge Hill University student’s efforts to publicise mental health and wellbeing issues in higher education has been recognised with a nomination at the 2019 Student Nursing Times Awards.
Chris Steele, from Wirral, is on the shortlist for Most Inspirational Student Nurse of the Year, with the winner to be announced on 26 April at London’s Grosvenor House Hotel.
The 28-year-old final-year Children’s Nursing undergraduate is among eight nominees from the University, represented across five categories.
“I was so happy to hear I’d been recognised,” admits Chris. “The basis of my nomination was for my extra-curricular studies, as well as my student representative work, for getting involved and becoming a Student Quality Ambassador [SQA].”
Father-of-five Chris was inspired to help others having reflected on his own experiences.
“My father passed away when I was 16 and my mental health has always been a battle. However, over the years I have learnt many ways to help manage my mental health, and I wanted people to know that mental health issues shouldn’t stop them from doing what they want to do. That it is OK not to be OK – and the importance of seeking help and support when you need to.”
The recognition comes from his campaigning to help improve students’ university experience, by creating a safe peer-to-peer support network designed for the unique and challenging nature of Nursing courses.
Through becoming an SQAs he was able to engage with his peers, the Faculty of Health and Social Care, the newly-created Nurse Society and the Students’ Union to meet the University policy and guidance in setting up his ‘Time2thinkofU’ campaign. This entailed creating a dedicated social media outlet and a monthly drop-in-session on campus, facilitated by the University wellbeing and chaplaincy teams.
“The idea was to ensure students who needed support were properly looked after and aware of the network available to them”, Chris said. “Focused at Edge Hill, the programme was set up to cover other North West universities, including Liverpool John Moores, Chester, Bolton and Cumbria.
“I’ve travelled to universities, speaking about the project to students and staff, about the potential support out there for people who need it.”
The campaign has helped students access help and support, to address specific issues and better manage their overall health during their studies, with Chris also designing and making available additional innovative resources including a self-help toolkit, calming techniques and an online ‘know yourself’ quiz.
His work has also led to a unique opportunity to write for the Royal College of Nursing’s Nursing Children and Young People journal, in which he has been able to address key industry issues.
“A lot of people applied, so I was so proud to get the columnist job. I talk about subjects such as mental health, going back to university as a mature student, how important it is to listen to the student voice – it is a real highlight of my extra-curricular work.”