The Mancunion

Britain's biggest student newspaper

Interview: Greater Manchester Nightline

The Mancunion talks to Greater Manchester Nightline, the confidential phone service, to find out how they help students and how you can get involved

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As students, we’re all too familiar with how stressful university life can be. Between studying, part-time jobs, and graduate applications, things can become stressful, not to mention a little lonely. For those reasons, the Greater Manchester Nightline is available to listen to any student — whether they’re feeling down, venting frustration, or expressing joy over a good grade.

Nightline operates an anonymous call service open to take calls from any student, for any reason. The service operates completely anonymously, meaning that all volunteer and caller identities are confidential. This is to allow for a safe avenue for students to express themselves comfortably and have someone listen without bias or judgement.

I recently sat down with some volunteers for the Manchester Nightline to get a more in-depth understanding of what the organisation does, and how they work.

For instance, I thought that Nightline would be a full-time job. Not so, according to volunteers.

“There are a minimum of three shifts per semester, so it’s really not a massive commitment, not something that has to be done every week.” Which is great for university work, because “[shifts] can be worked around your schedule, so it’s flexible.”

I also wanted to know what training was like. “Training is split over six to seven weeks, taking place in the form of two sessions in a week for two hours each, around small groups.” These sessions involve experienced Nightline members, and also feature guest speakers. Nightline veterans teach expertise and techniques with lots of one to one support to ensure volunteers are up to scratch for such an important task.

“You are trained with the same group each week, so you get to know the group well. Everyone’s really nice.”

That leads me to another question I had. How sociable was the service for volunteers? “Social events take place particularly around training time for trainees.” These events “help with team building and re-enforcing positive relationships.” They also acted as a rite of passage for a trainee that has passed training.

The nature of the service also bound volunteers together tightly. “If you meet new people on shift that’s also really nice. Even if you don’t know the person, often through a particularly tough call, that other person is there to help you.”

“Tough calls” were obviously a reality of this kind of support work, and I wanted to know what kind of support was open to volunteers to ensure their own well-being. Nightline reassured me that internal support networks existed to care for all volunteers. “All volunteers care about one another and are all very nice people. There’s always someone else on shift to rely on.”

I also asked about the expectations Nightline had when it came to their volunteers. “Nightline policies must be adhered to at all times and volunteers must stick with what they’ve been trained to do.” Volunteers also have to remain professional throughout training and while on the phone. “Confidentiality is the big one.”

Of course, the anonymity of volunteers was an utmost priority, but what about callers themselves?

Any reader who may be thinking of calling Nightline should know that questions for their name or personal information are only ever asked for if the call involves an emergency situation, such as if an ambulance needs to be dispatched. Otherwise only what a caller is open to telling the volunteer is given over the phone.

Nothing about the call is then noted down except for the broad topic of conversation, for example, if the call relates to anxiety or gender dysphoria. This is recorded in order to let trainers know what to go over in training sessions to help volunteers better assist in their role.

With all that in mind, I wondered what the Nightline members I spoke to would say to a student considering volunteering.

“The largest commitment is the training. You’re only allowed to miss two sessions because you need a certain amount of knowledge to pass.” Once finished, you’re a volunteer. “It’s not as big a commitment because you’re only required to do three shifts per semester. Because the service is running from 8pm-8am, it’s not a massive time out of the university schedule.”

Volunteering is not open to students in their final year. All current sessions for the 2017 semester are taken up, but there are still sessions open for second semester.

For more information on Nightline, to volunteer or just to find out more, be sure to check their website out at http://manchester.nightline.ac.uk, but also check out the Humans of Manchester University Facebook page, where Nightline had a recent collaboration.

If you want to call Nightline, you just need to check the back of your student ID. Otherwise, if you email manchester.nightline@gmail.com from a student account, you will automatically receive an email with the phone number to call.