‘We can’t take on the crisis alone’: Sheff Nightline volunteer pleads for more uni support

‘Unis are putting the mental health crisis onto students’

A Sheffield Nightline volunteer has revealed that they “cannot take on the student mental health crisis alone” in a bid for better support for the listening service.

The current volunteer spoke to The Sheffield Tab on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of Nightline’s work. She said students are struggling to cope with the number of people seeking support, as the university points students towards Nightline as a first port of call.

She is calling for her university and Sheffield Hallam to provide better funding and support to the service. “It feels like the universities are putting the student mental health crisis back onto students rather than providing adequate support, which is a massive problem.”

“The mental health services at the University of Sheffield are so subpar that whilst students wait for professional help, they are directed to Nightline” she told the Sheffield Tab. “They place too much emphasis on our service without acknowledging the fact that it is made up of students who are struggling too.”

The volunteer said that before the coronavirus pandemic, her experience at Nightline was brilliant due to the supportive community and welfare services; services which have since been reduced. “We have to take harrowing calls alone in our bedrooms, the only support we can access for ourselves is over instant message with a welfare officer we have never even met, it isn’t enough.”

Nightline has reduced the hours that their support is available during the pandemic. Previously, students could access the messaging service 8pm – 8am, which has now been cut back to 8pm – midnight. Volunteers believe that reinstating the original hours would mean “we could offer proper support without compromising our own mental health.”

“If mental health is as important to universities as they claim it to be, they need to allow us to operate to the best of our capacity. We have written extensive risk assessments on safe working during Covid, including volunteer bubbles and a rotation system to use our office.”

She continued: “Both Sheffield universities need to acknowledge that student mental health has reached crisis point and if they are going to recommend Nightline as the first port of call they need to back that up with funding, access to our office and reinforced welfare services for volunteers. You need to listen to us.”

“It is pivotal that we receive the required support from the universities because we simply cannot take on the student mental health crisis alone.”

The volunteer wanted to state that Nightline is a fantastic service that is still readily available to all Sheffield students. She would like to make it known that she came forward in order to call for more support from the universities and not in criticism of Nightline.

A spokesperson for the University of Sheffield said “we understand the Covid-19 pandemic has been an unprecedented time for students and we have been working hard to ensure we are support them  in the best possible way, including providing a breadth of mental health support.”

“Throughout the pandemic, the University’s Student Support Services have been open and available online with the University Counselling Service offering telephone and video appointments. All students also have 24/7 access to emotional and mental health advice through the TogetherAll service.”

“The Student Space web resource also provides free direct support for students via phone, text and email. The University has also contacted students who have notified us they are self-isolating to check on their welfare and offer practical and emotional support. Students who are self-isolating are offered a fast tack to mental health support.”

The University of Sheffield has also taken other measures such as “additional mental wellbeing workshops by Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) on coping with Covid-19” with further workshops coming online.

There is also a “wellbeing video and blog”, “online mental health workshops running until the end of March in collaboration with Mind, as part of their Mentally-Healthy Universities programme.”

The University has also created “a £3 million Covid-19 Support Fund for any students facing particular financial challenges as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

The spokesperson continued “A range of online activities for students to support engagement and community building, including quizzes, yoga lessons, music tutorials and fitness classes, have also been offered alongside regular support.”

“We encourage any student worried about their mental health to contact our professional mental health team at [email protected].”

A spokesperson for Sheffield Nightline said “Sheffield Nightline is grateful for the continued support we have received from both of out partnered universities. Our organisation has had to change significantly over the past year to handle the difficulties of the pandemic, and we’ve worked hard bringing our welfare procedures up to date with the good practice guidlines of the Nightline Association, which are designed in line with the sector best practice.”

“As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the decision was made to close the phone lines to protect the health of our volunteers. However, we have continued to operate 2 of our 3 listening services as normal.”

“The views in this article are not representative of the views of Sheffield Nightline or the majority of it’s volunteers.”

“If you’d like someone to talk to, you can reach us via our email [email protected]. Or between 8pm-12am through instant messenger at our website.”

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