It's 1am, the early hours of a Wednesday morning. Your friends and family have all gone to bed, but you can’t sleep. You might have just had an off day, or you might have something more serious on your mind. You want to talk to someone about it – but don’t want to bother your friends, or you might feel that you can’t talk to them about it. Regardless of the situation, Nightline is here to talk.
"While subjects such as suicide or depression are common topics of conversation among callers, we receive calls from students who have a huge variety of reasons for phoning. Our Get Home Safe service is a simple but effective concept: Ring Nightline and just chat to us on the way home, to make sure you get home safe."
Nightline is a charitable organisation run by students, for students, which operates during university term-times. Each university has its own local branch of the charity, which is run by students from that university. Nightline’s opening hours are from 8pm at night until 8am the next morning, and we take phone calls, instant-messenger chats, and even visits from students who want to come and talk.
While more serious call subjects such as suicide or depression are common topics of conversation among callers, we actually receive calls from a huge range of callers for a huge variety of reasons. Sometimes people would just like a friendly chat or have some good news they’d like to share. You don’t need to have a huge problem to talk to us – whatever’s on your mind, we’re more than happy to offer support.
We also offer an information service, as well as a Get Home Safe service. This means that students can ring us for information such as numbers of taxi companies, local sexual health clinics, and we will provide them with the information they need. Our Get Home Safe service is a simple but effective concept: walking home late at night? Feeling unsafe? Ring Nightline and just chat to us on the way home, to make sure you get home safe.
"We aim to have one woman or trans-feminine identifying volunteer and one male or minority gender identifying volunteer on shift at all times, so that if a caller would like to speak to someone of a specific gender we are able to cater to that need."
There are many layers to the Nightline team. On the ground – and most important – level, we have the volunteers who check in for shifts and take calls, spending nights in the office with other volunteers to support callers. We have two shifts, from 8pm-12am and from 12am-8am, and at all times aim to have one woman or trans-feminine identifying volunteer and one male or minority gender identifying volunteer on shift at all times, so that if a caller would like to speak to someone of a specific gender we are able to cater to that need.
The Group Leaders rotate on a weekly basis, and are in charge of ensuring all shifts are filled, cleaning and maintaining the office, and stocking the office fridge – an essential task for the smooth running of the organisation! We also have an elected committee who organise training, social events, make sure our IT is functioning and manage branch finances. Overseeing the whole event are the two elected student co-ordinators, who ensure the smooth running of the organisation. All members of Nightline start out as volunteers, which ensures that everyone at each level has the same basic knowledge and experience of call-taking and how the team functions.
Passion and companionship
Nightline training runs every term, and is organised by the two student training officers, who oversee the running of the branch. Volunteers sign up to lead training, and are given all the information and support needed to prepare. Training sessions run for three weeks, with 11 hours of training per week – it’s no mean feat! At the end of the three weeks, trainees undergo an assessment to ensure they are ready to volunteer with us. The rigorous process that aspiring volunteers go through is no less than essential to ensure we are able to provide the best service possible.
What really keeps Nightline afloat is the dedicated team of volunteers on the ends of the phones: without these people giving up their time night after night, the service simply couldn’t exist. The passion of the volunteers to help others, and the community and companionship between them, makes for a supportive and rewarding working environment which keeps us coming back. That, and the free biscuits.
If you’re currently at university, sign up to train with your local Nightline branch this term.
If your univeristy doesn’t have a Nightline and you’re interested in setting one up, get in touch with the Nightline Association.