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'It’s extremely difficult to call up a stranger and start pouring your heart out'

Meet the volunteers answering late-night calls from students who need to talk.

shutterstock_272480996 File photo Shutterstock Shutterstock

It’s an extremely difficult thing to do, to call up a stranger and start pouring your heart out.

NITELINE HAS BEEN taking calls from students in several colleges in Ireland for over 20 years.

At the end of the line is another student, who is volunteering their time, waiting to listen.

The free phoneline, which can be reached on 1800 793 793, is open to students from several colleges in Dublin and Maynooth from 9pm to 2.30am during every night of term.

Niteline is based on the Samaritans model and each volunteer is trained in how to actively listen and support callers.

vol Information about Niteline volunteers Niteline Niteline

David Gahan, a 22-year-old Computer Science student from Dublin City University, is the service’s coordinator. He has been involved in Niteline for three-and-a-half years.

David says just under half of calls to Niteline are about mental health.

He thinks more people are willing to talk about this topic now due to public awareness campaigns tackling the associated stigma, noting: “Mental health isn’t just something that happens during bad times. It’s like a cold, it comes and goes.

“There has really been a push in Ireland in the last 10 years to get people talking about mental health.

We get a full breath of everything people go through – good and bad. Sometimes people just want someone to talk to. We’re a wall and they just throw ideas against it.

If a person who is suicidal contacts the helpline, David says the volunteer allows them to express what they are feeling.

dave David

“The difference in coming and talking to us rather than talking to a friend is that while the friend might immediately say ‘Don’t do it’, we give them a space to talk about how they’re feeling, no matter how that is.

“We try and make sure that everyone gets a chance to be heard. If people need to be referred on we do that.”

David says callers also want to talk about relationship issues, financial trouble and accommodation problems, adding the latter has been “a really big one in the last year”.


All volunteers go through extensive training both before and during their service, and they can avail of counselling at their colleges if they need to.

They commit to a minimum of two shifts a month.

kinetavaloo Kineta

Kineta Valoo is Niteline’s secretary. The 22-year-old is a fifth year Medicine student at the Royal College of Surgeons (RSCI).

She has been involved with the service for three years.

“I’ve always had an interest in mental health. I want to be a psychiatrist,” she tells us, adding that getting involved with Niteline is “hands down the best decision I’ve made in my university life”.

“With Niteline you get just as much as you put in. The more involved you are, the more rewarding it is.”

She says it’s important groups like Niteline continue the push to destigmatise talking about mental health issues.

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“It’s really important that we continue these efforts, to make sure mental health is at the forefront. It’s something people need to work on. If we can’t talk about the problem, we can’t fix it.

“We will be here for [callers] no matter how they’re feeling.”

Kineta thinks it’s “crucially important” the service is run by students for students

It’s an extremely difficult thing to do, to call up a stranger and start pouring your heart out. We have a connection from get-go because we’re all students.

More information about Niteline can be read here. A list of additional helplines and websites, tailored to help people dealing with a number of specific issues, can be found here.

If you’re interested in becoming a volunteer, you can find an application form here.

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Niteline is affiliated with the following colleges:

  • Institute of Technology, Tallaght
  • Institute of Technology, Blanchardstown
  • Maynooth University
  • The National College of Art and Design, Dublin
  • The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland
  • Trinity College Dublin

If you need to talk, contact:

  • Samaritans 116 123 or email
  • National Suicide Helpline 1800 247 247 – (suicide prevention, self-harm, bereavement)
  • Aware 1800 80 48 48 (depression, anxiety)
  • Pieta House 01 601 0000 or email – (suicide, self-harm)
  • Teen-Line Ireland 1800 833 634 (for ages 13 to 19)
  • Childline 1800 66 66 66 (for under 18s)

Read: This green ribbon is opening up talk about mental health in Ireland

Column: Depression, bipolar and borderline personality disorder: A long road to diagnosis

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