Aberdeen Nightline on Supporting the Mental Health of our Students

Nightline is a student-run listening and information service that follows five key principles – confidential; anonymous; non-advisory; non-directive; non-judgemental.

We provide support and information to all students at the University between the hours of 8pm and 8am, seven days a week during term-time. Nightline volunteers can receive calls and messages ranging from academic struggles, bullying, debt and loneliness to a caller asking for a takeaway or a taxi number.

Nightline was set up in 1970 at the University of Essex by a former Samaritan director to help reduce the number of student suicides. Today Nightline is there to provide a safe environment for students to discuss their emotions, however big or small the issue.

We receive feedback from students on a regular basis which highlights the importance of the service. Some of our recent feedback includes quotes such as: “Having someone who is a student so understands the types of issues that students face. I didn’t feel so alone by being able to talk to someone.” and “A friendly voice, a safe space, a support system.” and “I felt the Nightline cared about what I wanted to say.”

For the majority, university is a positive experience. However, most students experience periods of high stress, anxiety and low mood. Nightline’s purpose is to support those who would like to talk to somebody during these times.

Because of the pandemic, the past year has been difficult in ways that we did not expect. However, we have been able to remain open the entire time, providing support to both the student body as well as our highly valued volunteers. We received more volunteer applications than ever before for the second semester, which was partly due to people not being able to do any other activities at university and because they had seen our merchandise and heard about us during the previous year. In total we successfully trained 32 new volunteers.

Another success this past year has been the support we have been able to provide for both our old and new volunteers through various forms of social interaction. We encouraged and rewarded engagement with different raffles each month which was appreciated and the socials were also important to try and maintain a sense of community, even if it was difficult due to the disconnectedness of everything being online. We implemented a new family system in smaller groups in the second semester to personalise peoples’ experience at Nightline.

Every semester the Nightline Association hosts a conference for all affiliated Nightline services, during which Aberdeen Nightline was recognised for all the hard work that has been put into improving the service, leading to the award for ‘Most Improved Nightline’, as well as one of our coordinators being named ‘Volunteer of the Year’ for all the time and effort she invested into maintaining and improving the service. We were also shortlisted for the category of ‘Best Nightline Awareness Week’, which was hosted in November 2020 and was a big success, involving several events. Amongst them were talks hosted with the AUSA, BAME and LGBT+ forums, as well as a free yoga session and a radio show hosted on Aberdeen Student Radio.

Funding from the Development Trust Student Fund makes the world of difference to the service we are able to run. With it we can maintain the healthy welfare of our volunteers, who in turn can then help others by running the shifts which keep the phone and instant message lines open for our students.

Our number one priority is the welfare of our volunteers and the funding continues to allow us to improve the services that we are able to provide for them. Our welfare team offers a weekly drop-in session where volunteers are able to get a coffee in an informal and relaxed environment to talk about any issues that have come up or stresses that they may be going through. We strongly believe that this is an important service to offer our volunteers and makes our welfare team more easily accessible.

Our welfare team now also arrange a social each semester, which helps to bring volunteers together in a completely relaxed environment away from the stresses of volunteering. This is usually a simple event such as getting a takeaway and watching a film but it really helps to bring volunteers together and we now regard it as a key part of the service that we offer to our own volunteers.

Another vital aspect is ensuring that the student body are aware of the service we provide and how they can use it. The funding enables us to produce merchandise and publicity materials to raise awareness of the service. This also helps to attract attention when we are running stands at Freshers’ Fayre and during Nightline Awareness Week. This in turn, allows students to interact with our volunteers at these events and gain a greater understanding of what the service offers and how it could maybe benefit them or their friends.

We are so incredibly grateful for the funding that we receive and personally wish to thank every single donor. There is absolutely no way we would be able to offer such an effective and high-quality service without your support. We really do believe that we provide a service that helps students during what can be extremely difficult years of their lives. Especially now during the pandemic, we have felt more than ever the importance of what we do and the support we can offer students. Most of the calls we received this year were, in some way, linked the pandemic and the effect it had on people. So to be able to provide such a caring ear to listen has been incredible and would not be possible without the funding we received.

We thank you for your extreme generosity and hope that you feel your money has been put to good use to help better develop the Aberdeen University community.

With Kind Regards

Aberdeen Nightline Co-ordinating Team

Published by The Development Trust, University of Aberdeen

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