As the mental health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic become increasingly apparent, over 2,000 student volunteers continue to provide life-saving mental health support for their peers at universities across the UK and Ireland.
Nightline are confidential, anonymous, listening services run by students for students. They operate through the night to provide a listening ear for students when the majority of other support services are closed and work to reduce the number of student suicides. Nightlines are there to listen to students no matter what they want to talk about, be it mental health issues, calls of a suicidal nature or providing company for a chat. Over 1.6 million students have access to peer support through the night provided by Nightline’s 37 services across the UK and Ireland.
Since March 2020, Nightline’s statistics across the UK and Ireland show that:
Calls relating to academic issues have more than doubled;
Calls discussing depression have increased by more than 50%;
Students are reaching out more to Nightline volunteers for the company of a general chat;
As some Nightlines alter their services to operate remotely, the proportion of students contacting Nightline by Instant Messaging has more than doubled.
The beginning of this academic year has brought with it a unique set of challenges to students, including Nightline’s own volunteers. In spite of the additional personal challenges they are facing, Nightline’s volunteers have found a way to be there for students.
Maddy Swanton, Welfare Officer at Exeter Nightline, said:
“Over the past months, we have seen a significant increase in demand for our service, especially for those moving to university for the first time. With people’s usual coping strategies and support networks restricted, we have been more eager than ever to be a listening ear to support those who need our service.”
With particular concerns around isolation and loneliness, Nightlines have been quick to adapt their services so that they can continue providing support to their fellow students safely. This includes a number of Nightlines introducing the use of anonymous Instant Messaging and Email services.
Niamh Gallagher, Deputy Director at Liverpool Hope Nightline, has been doing exactly that. she said:
“Liverpool Hope’s Nightline has moved from being a phone call service based onsite to working remotely online as an IM service.”
Digital services have also increased accessibility, ensuring international students who may be studying remotely this term can continue to reach Nightline.
Nightline’s unique offering of peer support is made possible by the incredible dedication of the volunteers and their genuine desire to help.
Rebecca Mayne, Coordinator at Sheffield Nightline, was keen to thank her fellow volunteers for their work. She said:
“The pandemic has impacted student life in a number of ways: we’ve seen an increase in contacts and the change in working patterns has been difficult. Thankfully, our volunteers have stepped up, shown incredible resilience throughout, and adapted to these changes well.
“We hope to continue to provide support for students in Sheffield, particularly over Christmas where the isolating effects of the pandemic could increase.”
A number of services already offer holiday email services and it is anticipated that these will be particularly important this year.
Since its inception 50 years ago, Nightline has overcome many challenges but the impact of COVID-19 is by far the greatest it has ever faced. With the inspiring commitment of its volunteers, Nightline is rising to the challenge to ensure their fellow students receive the mental health support they sorely need.