Southampton’s very own Nightline have recently succeeded in becoming a nationally accredited helpline. The student helpline, whose motto is ‘we’ll listen, not lecture’, had to achieve a number of criteria in order to become Good Practise Guideline accredited, including rewriting their constitution and confidentiality policy.
Nightline, a national organisation with help lines based at 90 universities countrywide, is a confidential listening service running nightly from 8pm to 8am. Southampton’s Nightline has records dating as far back as 1980 and is run by a base of trained student volunteers, who provide a judgement free listening ear for any problems. The service is equipped to deal with an enormous range of calls, ranging from depression, to sexuality, to family problems- receiving most calls dealing with information and academic stress.
In light of their recent accomplishment, I spoke with Laura Mason, this year’s Nightline Officer.
Do you think Nightline is used by students to its full potential?
“They know nightline exists, but I think sometimes we don’t get the message across that we’re not there for advice, we’re there for a listening service. Some of the most rewarding calls we get are from people who needed information, but didn’t know where to go- so perhaps Nightline is maybe underused in that way.”
What training do volunteers receive?
“There is an initial selection, a full days training, and then monthly training. The training is very much focused on listening and call taking; being on nightline is very very different to talking to a friend,
it is definitely a skill you have to develop to help the listener come to their own conclusion.
You have to learn to give them any signposting that they need- they may require information- but we are definitely not an advice service, and we’ll never try to be.
What are the benefits of volunteering?
” I started as a fresher, because I wanted to do some volunteering. It is definitely the best way to make the best friends; Nightline is just filled with a group of really lovely people.”
“It’s also so rewarding doing it. You get the really boring bit of the CV benefits, which is important, but it’s also a massive benefit when you can put the phone down and you genuinely feel like you’ve made someone’s night better.
When someone who is really distressed has hung up on you lot calmer, that’s a really nice feeling.
Is it challenging to deal with the more difficult side of taking calls?
” Well, you don’t know what you’re going to pick up the phone to, but we have a lot of support in place-like really good links with the counselling service. Volunteers also support each other.
You can definitely have calls sometimes which are difficult, especially if they mirror something that has happened to you, but volunteers do come first.
But I wouldn’t call it a drawback. Even when something has been challenging, you still have that really good sense that you have tried to be there for them, and that always outshines when it has been upsetting.”
Why is Nightline unique as a service?
“Within SUSU, we are the only thing that runs through the night really. It also brings something else to the Welfare side of things;it provides it with a base of volunteers.
There’s nowhere else where you could go where you can just talk to another student, and I think it is really valuable that we are student run.”
Has Nightline seen any changes this year?
“Well this is the first year of the role [nightline officer], but I certainly haven’t been too quiet about it! We have been helping start Solent helpline, as well as planning to set one up at Winchester too.”
What would you like to see in the future of Nightline?
“We used to have a house on campus and then the construction of building 85 knocked it down. Bring back the Nightline house!”
If you are interested in finding out more about Nightline, find their website here.
There is also a volunteer taster session on the evening of 6th March, for more information email firstname.lastname@example.org