Nightline began in 1971, when a spate of suicides among students at Imperial College encouraged London Universities to think of new ways to support their students. Clearly, the needs of students who were struggling with university life were not being met. Thus, with the intention of expanding the network of services available to students, Nightline was born. Initially, the Samaritans helped set up Nightline as a small, college-based project, known as West London Nightline. In the 35 years since then, the organisation has evolved into a London-wide charity. In 1990 it moved from its original site in South Kensington to a space in the University of London Union (ULU), to reflect the nature of its service as a port in a storm for students from across London. Over the years, ULU has continued to generously support Nightline’s activities, enabling it to operate as effectively as possible.
Over the years Nightline has received recognition of the value of its service in many forms. The numbers of calls and emails have increased year on year, as has financial backing from an increasing list of universities, colleges and students’ unions. This means it can afford to employ a full time sabbatical Co-ordinator. As a charity, the helpline is supervised by a board of Trustees, and its work is supported by patrons from various walks of life.
The volunteers that keep the lines running every night during term time come from colleges and universities all over London. There are around 70 active volunteers at any one time. Approximately 40 new volunteers are trained and selected every year to replace those who move on. They are wonderful, dedicated people, without whom Nightline simply would not operate.
Although it is based at the University of London Union, Nightline does not restrict its activities to just one university; all higher education institutions in the London area are eligible to affiliate. This means that the institutions the organisation deals with are very diverse and all require service from Nightline tailored to their individual requirements.
The organisation is continuing to develop. Standards of training and support are constantly being reviewed and updated, with the help of the Telephone Helplines Association and organisations such as the Samaritans.
The aim of Nightline is to provide a complement to established University Welfare services, as it operates out of their hours. Nightline does not give advice, we aim to listen and support rather than to dictate courses of action. Nightline also acts as a central information service on all aspects of life in London.