How Nightline Saved Me

Nightline Awareness Week runs this year from the 14th-20th November. This annual national campaign  seeks to raise awareness of the student-run, student-led Nightline services. These non-directory information and listening services offer anonymous and confidential peer-support (without advice) and are managed on University campuses all over the UK and Republic Of Ireland via phone lines, Instant Messaging, Text Messaging, Email and Skype.  Nightline Awareness Week celebrates the students who strive to keep these services open 7 nights a week during their host University term-times.

University Mental Health comes under relentless fire as we continue to battle student suicide, self-harm, and rising levels of mental illness amid funding cuts and other priorities. The importance of breaking down the barriers that surround these taboo subjects remains as paramount as ever, and the determination required to stand up and tackle these obstacles can seem insurmountable. This is evermore so true in today’s political climate. With Trump and Brexit reigning, the importance of standing true to our own beliefs, of tackling the bitter-tasting and ever-pervasive fear surrounding us head on is now key to our survival.

I first heard of Nightline whilst attending a University Open Day before leaving high school. There was a huge banner flying over one of the Student Unions; it was of the brightest blue and it seemed to wave so welcomingly at me. I couldn’t wait for a chance to sign up. It wasn’t until my second year when I finally got to apply. I was living in a house that terrified me, watching someone I cared about self-medicate away daylight,  desperately looking for a moment that would allow my voice to count for something.
In this desperation, I sought to make a difference somewhere, to someone. If I couldn’t save this friend, there must be someone out there I could save; somebody I could be of use to.

The basic listening skills that I learnt as part of my local service team, the hours I spent on that hotline after dark, the camaraderie I felt working belonging to that team; those experiences are priceless. I learnt to listen in a way that could be empowering to my speaker. I learnt that being able to talk openly about deepest fears without a restriction of judgement is a skill of immense strength, and something humanity will always need.  The thrill of doing something you believe to be so incredibly worthwhile made all those sleepless nights addictive. I’ve since worked on other hotlines, in other countries, with differing core values and differing policies, but nothing has ever come close to working with those hard-working twenty-somethings, who believe they have the power to change the world. That drive, that passion, that absolute loyalty to the cause is hard-earned and thoroughly  deserved; this team is out saving the world every night! Their work is making humanity just that little bit kinder. Their listening ears and empathetic responses are opening worlds of possibilities that may never have been seen before.

I’ve been thinking recently about a publicity night I ran a few years ago. It was the last night out before Christmas and we’d taken the mascot and a handful of volunteers to the most popular club with the stickiest of carpets (everyone has one). I’d just managed to retrieve our kidnapped mascot and had helped to barter for the head back with some sweets the Christian Union were handing out. I was beginning to question every life choice that had led me into this situation, when I could have been out dancing with my friends, or — even better — been at home in my pjs with hot chocolate and a Disney movie.
I ended up outside in the smoking area, trying to raise morale with our mascot when I was barrelled into by a complete stranger who threw her arms around me, collapsed into tears and shouted “Nightline saved my life, thank you!”
Suddenly, every life choice made sense.
The truth is, Nightline has seen me from that terrified 19-year-old who just wanted to make a difference all the way through to the 25-year-old trainee psychotherapist who is still convinced that one day she will save the world; one day she will make that difference. Every job I’ve had since training has always seemed to come back to that one decision. My late-application for my place on my Counselling and Psychotherapy course was fueled and supported by the hotline work I’d been involved with. I channel the confidence I gained working on hotlines every time I step through that Therapist Office door and sit in the chair that monitors the clock. It’s that confidence and the belief in those skills learned that has taken me back through the doors of a University Counselling Service this time as a service provider, instead of a service user. For me, it all began with Nightline.
And I am reminded that it’s alright to want to save the world, it’s alright to save just one person, and it’s really alright if the one person I save is me.

To follow the Nightline Awareness Week Campaign, please follow the Tagboard, found here:

If you would like to learn more about the work Nightline does and to find a Nightline service in your area, please follow this link:

Image credit: Nightline Association

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