Art by Oonagh Madden-Wells

What actually is Nightline? This is a question we get asked often, usually in part to clarify confusion that we’re not involved with Exeter’s legendary night-life (a common and understandable mistake). It’s a question we’re always happy to answer, however, especially during the annual awareness week in November.

Nightline is essentially a student listening service which is open throughout the night during term time and run for students by students. We operate a phone line, an online instant messenger, Skype, and a texting service, all for students to get in touch between the hours of 8pm and 8am. We’re here when other services can’t be: when the Student Health Centre is closed for the night, and when Wellbeing waiting lists stretch to several weeks. We’re not professionals or counsellors, just volunteers who want to help fellow students out by offering an understanding ear.

now more than ever we need to be making sure no student feels completely alone with their difficulties

The Nightline Association is an award-winning national charity, with some 36 affiliated Nightlines at universities throughout the UK and Ireland, Exeter being one of them. The first Nightline began in 1970 at Essex University when a lecturer and chaplain noticed the high levels of stress, anxiety, and cases of suicide amongst local students. They believed students would feel better if they had someone to talk to, specifically a peer trained to deliver emotional support who personally understood the challenges of student life.

Given recent studies showing a rise in mental health issues for students, these issues are as relevant as ever. Even more worryingly, a record number of student suicides – 134 deaths in 2015 alone – means that now more than ever we need to be making sure no student feels completely alone with their difficulties. Today there’s over 2,000 trained Nightline volunteers, delivering an anonymous and confidential listening service available to 1.5 million higher education students.

The core principles that the very first Nightline were founded upon continue to hold today, nearly 50 years on. All accredited Nightlines agree to be confidential, anonymous, non-judgemental, non-directional, and non-advisory. We don’t tell students what they should do, regardless of their situation, because we don’t think it’s our place. We believe our job is to provide a safe and confidential space for students to share whatever is on their mind. And that can be literally anything.

if it’s a problem for you, it’s a problem worth talking about

Nothing is too big or small to contact Nightline, whether it’s academic stress, financial concerns, depression or bereavement, family or relationship difficulties, concerns about a friend, eating disorders or self-harm, suicidal thoughts, or you’re just feeling a bit lonely. So many of our callers feel that their problem isn’t ‘big’ enough, but if it’s a problem for you, it’s a problem worth talking about. And a problem shared is a problem halved. Or at least, a problem that you’ve been able to air with someone happy to listen.

Nightline in recent years has also taken on another role. As well as a listening service, many students now use us as a safety net walking home alone in the dark from a night out. This doesn’t have to be a serious chat, or a time to share things you’re stressing about, we’ll just stay on the line with you until you make it home. We’d always rather you give us a call than make the walk on your own, and let’s be honest, your mum would probably be happier too.

We want to make sure students know we’re always there for them

Nightline Awareness Week is a chance for us to really focus on advertising our service across campus, and making sure as many students know about us as possible. This year, the National Nightline Association theme is Self-Care and Wellbeing and here at Exeter we’re adopting that into our own campaign: ‘we’ll be there for you.’ We want to make sure students know we’re always there for them, regardless of the time of night, the day of the week, or the worry on their mind. Look out for Nightline’s advertising on campus, come say hi, have your questions answered and get a cup of tea for free.

National Nightline Awareness Week is the 20th-26th November. Exeter Nightline will be on campus throughout the week in the Forum. For non-Exeter students, to find out if your institution is covered by a Nightline, or for more information on setting up your own, visit the Nightline Association’s website:

If you would like to donate to Nightline, the link is here:


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