By Daryanna Lancet
Responding to the reported rise in mental health issues in Galway, a collective of NUI Galway students succeeded in founding Niteline in 2019—placing NUI Galway in solidarity with universities across the nation.
Niteline is a free, confidential and anonymous listening service, active Wednesday and Thursday nights from 9:30pm-12:30am. Students can log on to the service through a link on Niteline Galway’s Facebook page, and speak as a ‘visitor’ with an anonymous Niteline representative via message or phone call.
“There are no problems too big or small”, says Niteline auditor Clara Scanlon. “If you’re struggling with your mental health, if you’re having a problem in college, or if you’re having a lonely evening and just need someone to talk to—we’re just there to listen”. Run by students for students, volunteers for Niteline go through a rigorous four-week training process based off the “Good Samaritan Model” of active listening. Niteline volunteers do not give advice, but provide information on student support services upon request. “There’s just a lot of stuff happening in the world, and people need people to talk about it”, says Ms Scanlon. “I don’t really feel that comfortable sharing my concerns with my friends all the time… but if you can talk to someone… and you’re never going to see them, it’s just easier to open up”.
Niteline listening services for students have been active nationwide for several decades now. Dublin Niteline service, which trained the NUI Galway Niteline team in 2019, was established thirty-five years ago and opens every night to receive student calls and messages. “There were Nitelines in Trinity, Cork, and Belfast, and we were basically like, well, why don’t we have this in Galway?” says Scanlon. “In the last few years, stats on mental health have really changed… a lot of people have more mental health issues. Social media plays a part that it didn’t twenty years ago”.
In 2019, the Union of Students in Ireland surveyed 3,340 students, publishing the first National Report on Student Mental Health in third level education. A significant percentage of students reported dealing with anxiety (38.4%), depression (29.9%), and stress (17.3%). In 2018, NUI Galway Student Counselling Services reported “the demand (for counselling) outstripped the capacity of service to deliver”, (NUI Galway Annual 2017-2018 Student Report). “We just really would encourage all students to please use Niteline, even if it’s just about exam stress”, says Ms Scanlon, “Because sometimes you just need to vent. We’re there just to actively listen to you, we’re not judgmental, and we’re non-directive”.
The student-run organization has been working on gaining visibility. “Last year was about getting set up and this year is about getting the word out on campus that we’re here”, concludes Ms Scanlon. “We don’t know your gender, we don’t know your age, we don’t know what course you do, it’s completely anonymous, and we’re here…we’re ready to listen”.
Niteline is currently accepting volunteer applications. For more information on volunteering for Niteline, please contact Niteline NUI Galway via Facebook message, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.