YUSU’s Board of Trustees has decided against re-ratifying York Nightline

After half a century, Nightline has now closed

The University of York Students’ Union’s Board of Trustees has made the decision not to re-ratify York Nightline. The service, which has been running at York since 1972, has therefore closed.

York Nightline was a volunteering project run by students, for students. It was an anonymous, confidential, and non-judgemental listening service staffed by two trained volunteers each night from 8pm to 8am who were able to chat with students who needed someone to talk to, whether in person, on the phone, over text, or by email.

They were able to give students a wide range of information, and pointed students in the direction of someone who could offer advice. They also offered a range of sexual health and sanitary supplies free of charge.

York Nightline announced the closure on their Instagram, saying that the decision to close the service came after “months of discussions with YUSU”.

They said: “It has been our greatest privilege getting to support you over the past 51 years. Thank you for trusting us, we don’t take any of it lightly. It brings us such great sadness to know that we won’t be able to continue the work of Nightline coming into the new academic year. We didn’t want this to happen but unfortunately it is out of our control.

“To anyone who has ever volunteered for Nightline – thank you… You have helped to save lives, please remember that.”

Nightline was suspended in March 2023 due to concerns for the welfare of volunteers

In a statement made by Hannah Nimmo, YUSU’s Community and Wellbeing Officer, the SU have said: “Back in March 2023, the Board suspended the operations of York Nightline following substantial concerns relating to the practical and emotional impact of the project on both our volunteers and York Nightline’s users.”

After weighing up between the need to have an avenue of peer-to-peer support, and the need to safeguard volunteers and users, “a new understanding of the increasing complexity, sensitivity and severity of the calls that volunteers at York Nightline were dealing with” was brought to light. According to the statement, this included calls of a “distressing or abusive nature.”

The board therefore raised concerns about the impact this could have on the well-being and welfare of volunteers.

‘Trustees were uncomfortable with the project’s operating model’

She said that the SU took a range of actions in response to these concerns, but despite efforts she said that “trustees were uncomfortable with the project’s operating model due to the continuing welfare issues experienced by volunteers and service users” and so it was decided that the project would not be re-ratified.

The statement describes how the nature of calls the service received changed post-Covid-19, reflecting the increasing challenges students face and the “mental health crisis amongst students nationally.”

They said: “Nightline service users were often calling the service in situations of emergency, crisis or extreme distress. In this scenario, the user fundamentally requires professional and/or clinical support, which York Nightline volunteers are not qualified to provide, nor were they ever expected or required to. The University of York Students’ Union is not equipped to provide this sort of training to student volunteers or to support students in dealing with these sorts of calls.”

YUSU acknowledged that the decision will come as a shock and will be very upsetting for many students, and said that: “The need to keep all students safe is at the heart of what the Union does, and the Board’s decision reflects this commitment to our unwavering duty of care.

“York Nightline is not a specialist mental health service and Trustees felt that, while difficult, it was important and ethical to recognise that service users would be better served elsewhere, particularly given the significant investment in the University’s support provision in recent years.”

There are still sources of support available

Whilst Nightline will be missed by many, University of York students have access to Talk Campus, a provision that offers instant, free support for student mental health through a trained community of students who offer peer support and listening. Peer support with the scheme is overseen by a clinical team, and a clinical helpline is available 24/7 to students on 0800 031 8813.

YUSU signposted other external services that are trained to deal with people in crisis, including:

  • Samaritans: 116 123 – Available to call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

  • SHOUT: 85258 – Available to text 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

  • Hopeline247 by Papyrus: 0800 068 4141 – Available to call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

In the statement, Hannah acknowledged the work of the volunteer group, saying: “York Nightline has been able to provide significant peer support to the students of York. I have seen testimonies from both service users and project volunteers that demonstrate the true impact of the project; York Nightline has changed lives and saved lives, and every single volunteer should be proud of the impact that they have made on the York community. I would like to extend a personal and my sincere thank you to all of the York Nightline volunteers and coordinators, past and present, for the time and effort they have generously invested in the project.”

The University of York’s Student Union declined to comment.

Featured images via @yorknightline

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