Helping Ontario's colleges and universities enhance capacity to support student mental health and well-being

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Nightline

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Nightline is a listening service and peer support system run by students for students. Students call in and talk about anything – whether it’s information about the closest clinic or even not wanting to be alone at night. The calls are managed by volunteers who are trained and prepared for anything. The idea is to create a link between students and for students to support each other.

Originating from the UK, Nightline was brought to Canada by Myriam Lecousy during her time at McGill University.

“Students can come from all over the world and often they have no one to turn to. So it’s very common to experience loneliness and anxiety. The goal of Nightline is to be the first line of response before they go into crisis.” Myriam said.

Myriam wants to reach out to other postsecondary institutions across Canada in order to establish Nightline on every campus.

“We want to normalize having a Nightline chapter on campus. All you need is someone on campus who is very motivated to set this up.Then you’d have to build a manual specific to the university, including popular resources where student in crisis can be referred to. As much as Nightline is a national organization, the goal is to have something local which is easily available to students.”

Myriam first reached out to Nightline in the UK to receive their training guides and resources. She then began to work with other like-minded students who were passionate about peer supports. Later on, they also included “professional advisors” from McGill who are specialized in certain topics.These are campus staff who khow to navigate the campus and could be anyone from student advisors, faculty, counselling staff, residence life staff to sexual assault support staff.

Zoe, a former volunteer at Nightline, said “I chose to volunteer because I went through a lot of difficult experiences in university myself. I was lucky enough to have sister who helped me through it, but she did not have McGill-specific experiences. Coming out of that, I wanted to support other students in similar situations, so I found Nightline as a way to give back.”

The Nightline volunteers go through 40 hours of training in a week. It is fas, intensive and comprehensive. The training covers general ‘informational’ or ‘social’ calls, but also specific topics such as grief, crisis management, bad drug trips, suicide calls, etc. Volunteers and trained to talk about how the caller is feeling, rather than playing detective and forcing solutions on callers. Importantly, the volunteers are also never alone as there are always a few people on staff in case a debrief is needed or in the event of an emergency.

The McGill Nightline has been running at full capacity for the last year. They have had over 3500 calls, nearly double compared to the previous year. It is a service that students have been using more and more. Myriam is now in the process of setting up a chapter at Concordia University for a February launch. She hopes that other institutions will recognize the value of peer supports and follow suit.


 

At CICMH, we’d like to thank Myriam and Zoe for their time. If you’d like to find out more about Nightline in Canada, go here.