The Concordia Students’ Nightline is set to resume service this Thursday, Jan. 9, after the winter holidays.
The Concordia-based active listening phone service was founded in 2017 by Concordia alumna Jade Se. The student-run nightline is completely anonymous and is open to anyone who calls.
“We’re very excited to reopen and hear about students’ winter breaks, as well as hear from our non-student callers,” said Camille Zolopa, President of the Nightline. “As an organization, we really aim to promote self-care and consideration for our volunteer corps as much as for our callers, so I think it’s super important to take breaks.”
According to Zolopa, some calls can be emotionally heavy, so it was necessary for volunteers to take some time off.
“Our approach is quite specific, in that we validate and actively listen to callers,” said Zolopa. “We don’t offer our opinions or advice; we think of ourselves more as an auditory journal for people. And perhaps most importantly, we’re open when a lot of services are closed, from 6:00 p.m. until 3:00 a.m.”
Callers tend to feel more comfortable disclosing information with the students, said Zolopa, likely because they are considered peers.
“The volunteer active listeners are totally non-judgmental, and will keep any information that’s shared in the call confidential,” said Valentin Garriga, VP external of the non-profit organization. “It creates a space that can feel safe to share anything that you may want to talk about.”
Garriga said having this alternative is important because some students may not benefit from mental health services offered by the university, or may feel uncomfortable with meeting someone in person.
With this extra layer of anonymity, students don’t need to go through triage — a process where they speak with a general mental health practitioner or nurse to discuss the general themes they want to resolve with therapy — like they would need to through Concordia’s Counselling and Psychological Services. Through the Nightline, they can just call and talk.
“They can have the conversation that they want to have, without having to talk about things they don’t want to talk about,” said Garriga.
Although this alternative mental health service does not stand in for professional help, Garriga said the student listeners are thoroughly trained by senior volunteers.
“We will deal with a large variety of possible scenarios, and volunteers are trained on how to handle a number of subjects, especially those you might know as ‘tough’ topics, [like] sexual assault, violence, gender identity, or sexuality,” said Garriga. “Things that people have a really tough time talking about. We want to make sure people are ready to listen and help accordingly.”
According to Garriga, the training happens in person, and is quite a long-time commitment.
“While we are training extensively, we are also providing tons of support for new volunteers, as it could be emotionally draining and physically tiring,” said Garriga.
With the new semester, the Nightline will be training a new cohort of volunteer listeners, which means things will get a bit hectic the first couple of weeks of the semester.
“During the first week of each semester, experienced volunteers will be running training for the new recruits,” said Zolopa. “Therefore, we need returning volunteers who are not involved in training to cover more shifts during the first week back in service.”
With time and more manpower, Zolopa explained that a long-term goal of the Nightline is to increase their support system.
“Our long term goal is to be open every night of the week; once we have the volunteer corps to support that service expansion, we’ll be looking into new projects like offering a text/chat line,” said Zolopa.
Concordia’s Students’ Nightline will be open on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 6:00 p.m. until 3:00 a.m. at (514) 848-7787.
Graphic by @sundaeghost