Calling Nelly Nightline

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It’s late at night and you’re lying in bed, unable to sleep due to another stressful day of early starts, boring lectures, and crowded study spaces, on top of your own personal problems. It’s too late to contact your friends – they’ve got their own problems to deal with anyway. So what do you do? The answer is simple… call Nightline.

What is Nightline?: Nightline is an anonymous, non-judgemental listening service run by students for students, and is open from 10pm-8am every night of term. There are a number of ways to get in touch with Nightline to suit the individual caller’s needs. You can call (01524 594444), instant message (http://nightline.lusu.co.uk/contact-us/instant-messaging/), email (nightline@lancaster.ac.uk), or Skype (this service sends calls through to the Nightline phones – meaning you don’t have to use your mobile credit!).

Why call Nightline?: I’m sure we’ve all experienced a difficult patch during our time at Lancaster and maybe we’ve struggled to find the support we need. The university welfare system can be complex to engage with; perhaps the issue(s) you are facing is more minor, or you don’t want to discuss it face-to-face, or you want to discuss it immediately without the bureaucracy of waiting lists and paper work. These are just a few of the reasons why the Nightline service is a valuable addition to student welfare.

The 6 Nightline Principles: Confidentiality – Anything you discuss with a Nightline volunteer will not be divulged outside the service.

Anonymity – Nightline does not attempt to ascertain your identity. The Nightline call takers also remain anonymous. This makes Nightline the perfect place for talking about sensitive or ‘embarrassing’ issues.

Non-Judgementalism – Friends are a great source of support but they can often have rather strong and/or blunt opinions – Nightline does not. Volunteers will remain neutral with regard to any conversation topics.

Empathy – Just because volunteers must remain neutral does not mean they are robotic. The call-takers are trained in empathetic listening and will always recognise and take into account the caller’s feelings.

Non-directivism – Nightline will not coerce you into a certain course of action but rather listen and discuss. Effectively, when you call Nightline, you are in control of the call.

Dedication – All volunteers are passionate and committed to doing the best they can for each caller.

What can I contact Nightline about?: I spoke to one of the Nightline publicity coordinators, Charlotte Marlor, who told me, ‘not many people do know about us [Nightline], or if they do they maybe don’t see us as a service that can be used for a wide range of reasons.’ This is a real shame, so I will make it clear that you can contact Nightline about anything ranging from a general chat to a discussion about your deepest insecurities. Whatever your problem or reason for calling, volunteers are trained and happy to help and listen – ‘listen’ being the operative word, as Nightline is a listening service, not an advice service. That’s not to say that calling Nightline is a waste of time, as call-takers are trained to encourage callers to find their own solutions, and the very act of talking can help callers unearth possible solutions they hadn’t thought about.

How to get involved: Nightline is always on the lookout for new volunteers. There are two types of volunteer: call-taker (required to do 2 shifts per term) and publicity. Applications for these roles are available via the Nightline website (http://nightline.lusu.co.uk/volunteering/) and the ‘Lancaster Nightline’ Facebook page. Nightline recruits call-takers on a termly basis, with applications opening at the start of each term and training (currently consisting of 5 evening sessions) taking place towards the middle of each term. Training consists of learning how to deal with all types of call, a practice shift, meeting other members of the Nightline service, and free food! What more could you ask for?

Why should you join Nightline?: ‘Nightline is an amazing service that gives you the opportunity to make your university experience one that counts not only do you help people going through a crisis, but you become part of a community of like-minded people who make such a positive impact on the university,’ says the Nightline Training Coordinator. What more could you want from your time at Lancaster? Studying at university isn’t cheap – we want to get our money’s worth, more than just a qualification. Services such as Nightline offer us students a return on our investment. This is because Nightline is a commendable extra-curricular activity useful for a CV but more importantly because it allows for the opportunity to actively contribute to and improve university life for ourselves and those around us, so that we can get the best out of time here. Call Taking: In its call-takers, Nightline looks for, ‘Passionate and empathetic listeners who are able to stay impartial and calm whatever the situation,’ the training coordinator explains. Most students are used to dealing with all types of strange and testing situations, and for the most part, I’d like to think they handle them successfully. This surely makes the majority of students ideal trainees for Nightline as they are already on the same level as the caller, sharing many of the same university experiences. So if you think you’ve got what it takes to be a call taker or are interested in learning and acquiring the necessary skills, you should definitely apply. Publicity: Just as important as taking the calls is raising awareness of the service. Applications for the publicity team are open all year round (these can be found on the Nightline website or ‘Lancaster Nightline’ Facebook page). Perhaps you’ve finished your exams and are struggling to find things to do, so think about joining the publicity team this term, who are holding an informal induction on Thursday 16th June. The next publicity event will take place during Freshers’ Week, which is vital time for recruitment, as many members of the service will be leaving at the end of term (due to graduation). The publicity team therefore welcomes any help you can offer. Their key goal in going forward is increasing awareness of the service and what it does. One way in which this will be done is by targeting freshers, who, as Charlotte tells me, Nightline ‘will be handing out memo pads to.’ New posters and flyers will be posted all over campus too. Hopefully this will result in far more people knowing about Nightline which in turn will enable the service to be used to its full potential. Going forward, Nelly the elephant, the Nightline mascot who I’m sure a lot of you have seen wondering around Freshers’ Fair and Alex Square offering hugs, will be continue to play a big part in publicity. Can you see yourself donning the legendary costume or leading the lovable Nelly around campus? Then join the publicity team – you know you want to!

What the volunteers say: I also spoke to one of the Nightline call takers to find out about their reasons for joining the service and experiences of being in the service. ‘I had always planned to do some kind of volunteer work when I came to uni. When I heard about the service, I thought the work it did sounded amazing and I knew I wanted to get involved,’ one call-taker explains. This demonstrates the motivation that I’m sure most call-takers possess, which is a selfless passion to help other students. The call-takers are dedicating their time to Lancaster students because they are passionate about supporting our welfare and it’s important that we recognise and utilise this service should we need it. The call-taker continues, ‘When somebody who called up feeling upset and low and alone says “Thank you so much, you’ve really helped me.” That’s the best feeling in the world.’ The Nightline service is clearly effective in helping students, and valued by them and so long may it continue.

Caller, Call taker, or Publicity?: Hopefully this article has provided you with more information about the great service that Nightline provides and the ways to get involved. Nightline volunteers work incredibly hard and I’m sure there are a lot of people out there who the service could support, as well as many of you who would prove valuable assets to the service as volunteers, so please do think about getting involved in some way. I’m sure you’ll be happy if you do.

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