Content warning: This article contains mention of suicide, self-harm and mental health.
NiteLine, a student-run a confidential and anonymous listening service, were contacted by 1,200 students in the 2022/23 academic year.
According to NiteLine’s social media team, the helpline spent 516 hours in conversations with students.
The most frequent issues discussed were concerned with college, mental health, loneliness and romantic relationships. Suicide, self-harm, assault and eating disorders were also discussed.
According to NiteLine’s website, the helpline received 1,776 contacts from students altogether in the last academic year, including text messages.
On Blue Monday, the third Monday of the year dubbed the “most depressing Monday of the year”, NiteLines call volume was 80% higher than on the average Monday last year.
Established in 1993 at Trinity and University College Dublin (UCD), NiteLine is a free service available every night of term between the hours of 9pm to 2.30am.
The volunteer base set out to create a non judgemental atmosphere in order to listen to one’s troubles in a non-directive manner. Offering confidential support and a compassionate ear the 100 plus anonymous volunteers serve ten colleges equating to around 130,000 students.
It now operates in several colleges across the country, including University of Limerick, Dublin City University and Maynooth University.
Many are familiar with the copious NiteLine posters which can be found scattered around campus. Be it on stairwells, notice boards or on the back of bathroom doors these posters are never too far out of student eyeline.
Speaking to Ayeh the Public Face of the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland (RCSI) and NiteLines Social Media Officer Mikayla I was able to delve deeper into the work being done at NiteLine and the people behind the phones.
Ayeh, a final year medical student in RCSI, got involved with NiteLine back in 2022 during her 3rd year: “College was really publishing NiteLine a lot, we had NiteLines contact at the end of lectures, we had their posters around college.”
Ayeh said she had been familiar with NiteLine from a distance, unsure of the work which was being done. It was when she spoke to a friend, a former public face for NiteLine that she became more familiar with the service being provided.
“During my third year of medicine a friend of mine was the public face of NiteLine and she talked to me about it and she told me exactly what sort of service it is. I had only been seeing it from afar at that point.
“I saw her doing her publicity stunts and she talked to me alot about it and what sort of job they do, what sort of service they provide. I found that to be really exciting and nice, especially during Covid.”
Public Faces are the only members of NiteLine who are allowed to disclose their identity.
“I’m the one who is going to be at the stands,” Ayeh explained.
“A big pillar of NiteLine is anonymity and we don’t want people to know who our volunteers are. You don’t want to talk and be afraid someone you know will pick up the phone. We don’t want to stop students from calling us for any sort of reason.”
Ayeh said Public Faces are a vital component of the organisation as they can liaise and organise events in collaboration with other societies and workshops: “it is good to have a face to link the service to.”
Ayeh went on to say how “each Public Face for each college arranges a workshop. It can either be done on their own or as a collaboration with another society for example.”
Workshops deal with topics such as how to talk to a friend who may be distressed and how to manage stress.
“They are very chill and they are very easy to follow. They are not something very intense, ” Ayeh continued.
Balancing the role alongside college should not deter those who want to get involved, according to Ayeh.
“I get that question asked a lot in my publicity stunts,” she said, “they always wonder how you can balance between doing your course and having our hours of 9 to 2.30am.
“It’s very doable to be honest, you can do the days that suit you best and if you have a spare weekend or a spare day that you can do that it’s kind of a nice break between studying and doing all the course work.
“You kind of have your own thing going on and something to look forward to. It turns out to be much lighter than what it sounds sometimes.”
NiteLine Social Media Officer Mikalya got involved in NiteLine as someone she knew was a Public Face: “I’ve been in Niteline for about three years now. Initially what drew me too was one of the girls in the year above me when I was doing my undergrad in psychology, she was volunteering with NiteLine and she was a Public Face.”
She went on to say how she “just applied and went through the interview process and here we are”.
Speaking about the higher frequency of phone calls on Blue Monday, both Ayeh and Mikalya also echoed how NiteLine sees a spike in calls during exam period.
“It’s definitely during exam periods” said Ayeh, specifically referencing semester one in December.
“Because it’s cold, people are missing their families and course work is very heavy”, Ayeh said, students tend to become overwhelmed and need an outlet to vent their worries. In many ways NiteLine is helping to alleviate the solidarity experience of student life.
NiteLine’s ethos is based around peer support and student voice. Mikalya detailed how the aforementioned peer to peer aspect is “one of the really great things about NiteLine”.
She continued saying: “I know that sometimes if you’re going through something it can be very hard to go to a parent or a family member or even spoken within the college facility to say hey look I’m having a really stressful time.
“Actually being able to talk to someone who knows what it’s like is really unique and really nice.”
Ayeh said: “Sometimes as a student you want to talk to a fellow student or you just want to vent that you don’t want someone to give you advice.
“It’s always good to have that opinion to be able to just talk and even have someone there at the end of the line to listen to you who understands what you’re going through. Student life is definitely a shared experience.
“There is no subject that is too big or too small for us,” she concluded.
Those who want to get involved with NiteLine can do so online. At present they are not accepting new volunteers however one can register their interest via their website.
“You get interviewed and if you get accepted you get trained to be a volunteer” detailed Ayeh. Anyone with any questions can also reach out to Mikalya via NiteLines Instagram or email.
NiteLine are also hosting The Incognito Ball on February 22. Tickets are currently on sale via Eventbrite.
NiteLine can be contacted at 1800 793 793.