When I arrived at university, I was angry - angry about mental health, about the barriers to getting help, social stigma, popular misconceptions, and lengthy waiting lists.
At an on-campus volunteering fair, I found a way to channel my anger into action. It was there that I discovered Nightline.
Nightline is a listening service run by volunteer students, for students. Volunteers take over 60 hours of calls every night, and the charity has nearly 40 local services across UK universities.
The idea is simple: people get in touch to talk about their worries. At London Nightline, where I volunteer, volunteers receive phone calls, IM chats, and text messages from 6pm to 8am the following morning.
Nightline is accepting, non-judgmental, and safe. All calls and chats are confidential, and both volunteers and callers remain anonymous. People who get in touch will never feel pressured to talk about anything they don’t want to, and they’ll never be interrupted.
As a fresher struggling with homesickness, I knew how easy it was to shut yourself away at university - especially in an unfamiliar and sometimes overwhelming city.
After signing up for training and developing the skills I needed to work on the lines, I was welcomed into the Nightline family.
Here’s what you’ll learn when you volunteer with Nightline.
1) You’ll learn to really listen
Resisting the urge to give advice, or to relate callers’ problems to my own, isn’t always easy. However, through sticking to the Nightline code on shift, I’ve noticed how much my listening skills have improved in my daily life.
Now, if someone comes to me with their worries, I listen more intently than ever before. I let them direct the conversation, and help them find their own solution rather than butting in with suggestions.
I reckon I was a pretty good listener before I became a Nightline volunteer – but now I truly understand the importance of letting people talk.
2) You’ll make a direct impact
Volunteering for any charity is worthwhile, but few offer the opportunity to make a direct impact on someone’s life the way Nightline does.
Helping someone one-on-one can be intense, but also incredibly rewarding. A caller might tell you they feel a bit better after talking things through, or you might simply notice their tone becoming less panicked throughout the conversation.
Either way, you’ll know you’ve made a difference to someone’s well-being in a moment when they needed someone to be there for them.
3) You’ll meet some truly amazing people
One of the best things about volunteering with Nightline is the people you’ll meet. You’ll make friends with people who are committed to helping others (so of course, they’re going to be lovely).
I’ve met fellow volunteers from London’s many universities, who study all kinds of subjects. Without Nightline, I never would have met them!
A typical shift is staffed by three volunteers and, if we’re not helping somebody on the lines, we can be found getting on with essays, bonding over the ever-plentiful snack cupboard, watching a movie, or simply chatting on the pull-out beds with a cup of tea.
At the heart of every shift is an opportunity to reach out to others and make a real difference. Sound like something you’d like to get involved with?
Find your local Nightline to get started. Then, simply visit their website or social media accounts and get in touch.