Former Mental Health Nursing student, Alex Richardson, has been nominated for a prestigious national nursing award for his work in setting-up a befriending service to reduce loneliness in the community.

Alex, who completed his three-year degree in Mental Health Nursing at Canterbury Christ Church this summer, has been shortlisted for a Student Nursing Times Award in the Student Nurse of the Year, Mental Health category.

The Student Nursing Times Awards celebrates the achievements of the next generation of nurses, and all those individuals and organisations who support them. And in particular, the nomination recognises skills mental health student nurses need to develop to offer excellent care and support for people with mental health problems.

Alex set-up his talking therapy service, Keep Talking Services, during the pandemic as a way of helping individuals and offering support to people who are struggling with mental health issues and who are placed in residential care.

Now, a year later, Keep Talking Services is growing form strength to strength. Alex said: “Being nominated for such a prestigious award is an amazing achievement.

"As a second-year Mental Health Nursing student I set up a project aimed at reducing loneliness in the community through telephone befriending service. One year on we are now in the process of registering as a charity, and we have funding and a clear structure.

"I love what I do, and the University has been so supportive in my journey. They have been great to me and my charity. I am looking forward to a continuing a professional relationship with them.

"I didn't set up my charity to be recognised for awards and I certainly didn't do it for my own gain. I wanted to make a difference and I'm proud to say that I am. To be recognised for that is an amazing feeling and I'm forever grateful.”

Cathy Bernal, Senior Lecturer in Learning Disability in the Faculty of Medicine, Health & Social Care said: "Alex's leadership skills were evident from the first few days of his study at Canterbury Christ Church, when he was unanimously voted in as group representative in record short time. Subsequently, his extraordinary commitment to that role, and his effectiveness, were doubly impressive in his context of starting a family and working part-time whilst studying full-time. When he added this initiative to his already burgeoning portfolio, his vision and planning skills quickly ensured its sustainability.

“Students involved noted very early in the project the benefits it was conferring on them as well as on those they were talking to. The value of what Alex has achieved has been quite phenomenal. I look forward to seeing his charity develop yet further, benefiting more lonely people, and more students, in future."

Professor Claire Thurgate, Head of School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work, added: “I am incredibly proud of how Alex used his initiative during the first lockdown to meet the needs of our local community, many who were very vulnerable at this time. It has been fantastic to watch the growth of this initiative and Alex’s vision to develop his work into a charity.”


The winners of the tenth annual Student Nursing Times Awards will be announced at a ceremony in London on Thursday, 4 November.

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