MY AFTER DARK EXPERIENCE AS ANOTHER STUDENT’S LIFELINE

Disclaimer: mentions suicide

by Olivia Davis

Nightline is unique.

A phone call at 3AM under normal circumstances as a regular student would result in a sigh or occasionally, slight frustration. However, at Nightline it is an opportunity for a student to reach out when they may be feeling at a low or a vulnerable point in their life. As a volunteer listening service operating at over 50 universities in the UK with over 2000 student volunteers, Nightline operates as a reliable network for fellow students.

Norwich Nightline is open for both UEA and NUA students, 8PM-8AM everyday of term, regardless of exams or holidays. “We’ll listen, not lecture” is the main policy volunteers abide by in our mission to provide others in need of guidance.

For many of us, university was considered to be the place where our lives would take their course, become happier and provide us with invaluable life experiences for the future. No careers advisor tells you at the age of 17 about the possibility of mental illness or other struggles that come from such a large change in our young lives. Depression is prevalent in over 25% of first year students — perhaps a surprisingly high figure. This is a huge number of students needing support at any given time. I believe Nightline relieves the anxieties associated with contacting more formal support systems, such as the Dean of Students, and gives a first step to those in need.

No careers advisor tells you at the age of 17 about the possibility of mental illness or other struggles that come from such a large change in our young lives.

Each night can vary; some nights you can receive several calls and others none. Being anonymous, it can be extremely difficult to maintain composure when you lose touch with a caller or can’t offer the level of support they are seeking. On the other hand, our anonymity allows us to give callers a safe environment and a ‘faceless’ non-judgemental point of view. As a listening organisation, we can only guide them in what we hope is the right direction. Often calls can be about academic issues and problems with relationships, but volunteers must be prepared for the possibility of suicide calls and other sensitive topics. After a 12 hour shift, emotionally detaching from a distressed caller without any closure can be draining. This is where the other members of Nightline step in.

(Artwork © Asia Patel)

One of the most refreshing parts of the volunteering experience is the chance to meet a different person on shift every day — when we are not taking calls, we drink tea, study, watch a film or do the simplest of things — just talk. No two people have the same motivation for joining and this is what allows us to come together and share our perspectives to help Nightline grow. Personally for me, joining the organisation was a way to empathise with those who may have initially struggled to adapt to the social and independence aspects of university life.

I always find myself humbled by how truly altruistic and caring everyone in Nightline continues to be. Even within Nightline, there is an immense level of support internally when the need arises. Being a part of Nightline has thus far been the best part of my time at UEA and I would recommend it to anyone!

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