A University of Wolverhampton student will be shining the spotlight on mental health at a national conference later this year. 

Rianne Soleil, 27 from Lichfield, is studying for a Master’s degree in Adult Nursing and is in the final year of a two year accelerated programme of study.  She will share her experience at the conference to give an understanding of the challenges faced by students continuing their academic studies during a pandemic, focusing on how they have adapted to new working conditions and facing the pandemic on the frontline as well as exploring the broader impact on student life in particular access to resources as well as social interaction. 

The event, which reaches a wide-ranging national audience of Higher Education staff and providers, will explore the impact lockdown and isolation has had on student wellbeing and the transition to online learning.  It will explore the positives and negatives, the systems in place to support staff, the importance of building inclusive online communities and focus on ensuring at-risk students are supported. 

Rianne said: “Probably without exception this year has been extremely challenging for everyone; the pandemic has caused a shift in the delivery of higher education and together we have been challenged to adapt.  With the help of lecturing staff, my position as course representative has allowed me to support my colleagues as we find ways to best navigate the challenges posed by the pandemic. I look forward to the opportunity to share some of the unique experiences and perspectives that my colleagues and I have had following our university course during these times.” 

Clare Dickens, Senior Lecturer in Mental Health and University of Wolverhampton Health and Wellbeing Academic Lead and Independent Chair of Wolverhampton’s Suicide Prevention Stakeholder’s Forum, said: “I’m delighted that Rianne has been given the opportunity to present the student voice at this national conference. 

“Rianne has worked diligently as a course representative with our Students’ Union and has managed this intelligently and collaboratively, as well as being a considerable force for the enhancement of mental health support for students. 

“The Conference aim is to explore mental health in Higher Education in the midst of and beyond Covid-19, and as Chair for the day, I wanted attendees to hear directly from students – it's really important that we focus on what their view of educational excellence is and what good mental health support looks and feels like.” 

A panel of expert speakers will offer insight during the day long conference as follows: 

·         Kathryn Mitchell, Vice Chancellor, University of Derby 

·         Ross Renton, Principal, ARU Peterborough 

·         Dr Anna Matthews, Chair, UMHAN 

·         Professor Keith McLay, Pro Vice-Chancellor, University of Derby 

·         Hannah Robinson, Academic Registrar, University of Derby 

·         Jonathan Rhodes, Educational Developer, University of Wolverhampton 

·         Robyn Guillaume-Smith, Senior Programme Officer - Mentally Healthy Universities, Mind 

·         Clare Dickens, Academic Lead Mental Health, University of Wolverhampton 

·         Leigh Spanner, Sector Improvement Lead, Student Minds 

·         Christopher Tucker, Director of Residence Life, University of Edinburgh 

·         Dr Dominique Thompson, Author and Consultant, Buzz Consulting 

·         Lesley O'Keeffe, Registrar, Brunel University London 

·         Mette Westander, Founding Director, Disabled Students UK

·         Jon Rhodes, Educational Developer (CoLT ).  University of Wolverhampton   

The Mental Health in Higher Education Conference will take place virtually and will be broadcast live on Monday April 26.