The AU hotline is adding a chat line

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A new chat line will make getting help even easier.

2019.01.22 | Miriam Brems

About a year ago, medical student Eva Poulsen took the initiative to start the anonymous helpline. Her inspiration came from studying abroad in the States, and one of her main motivators was the AU study environment survey from 2017, which revealed that one in five AU students has symptoms of stress in their daily lives. Photo: Private.

Facts

  • The AU Helpline opened on September 3rd 2018
  • The helpline is run by 20 AU student volunteers
  • The helpline is only for AU students
  • You can reach the helpline Monday through Thursday, 7pm - 10 pm, at 87 15 16 46.
  • The AU Helpline was established in collaboration with the Student Council, the Student Counselling Service and Aarhus University.
  • Auhelpline.dk (in English)

Since the anonymous hotline AU Helpline opened on September 3rd last year, two or three students have called in every week for good advice – or just a listening ear. Even more students have used the service since early December, when the exam period started for many. But Eva Poulsen, the medical student who came up with the idea for the AU Helpline, doesn’t think that exam angst is the only explanation for the increase in calls.

“It’s also because our marketing is reaching more students,” she says.

Even though the increase in calls coincided with the exam period, exams were far from the only topic.

“What we see most is related to general well-being, for example about the lack of a network and loneliness. Academically, but also in general. A lot of them also call because they feel stressed out, have performance anxiety, are having problems with their study groups or just don’t feel like they quite belong,” Poulsen says.

There was a major focus on sexually offensive behavior at AU last year, and in November a survey revealed that about 1,200 students at Danish universities had been sexually harassed or abused. But the hotline doesn’t see many calls about that.

FACTS: The AU Helpline is looking for new volunteers

In February, a handful of the 20 volunteers who have been staffing the phones for the past five months are stopping.

The hotline is looking for new volunteers who are interested in being trained to help their fellow students.

New volunteers are guided through a series of cases which teach them to take calls on a variety of topics, including well-being, loneliness, depression, abuse, grief and suicidal thoughts.

“The volunteers have to be able to take any call whatsoever – but this doesn’t mean that we expect one crisis call after another. And we also refer some students to experts,” Poulsen stresses.

To volunteer, the only requirement is that you have to be an AU student with a passion for helping others. Volunteers commit to two semesters at a time.

“That isn’t what we primarily get calls about, at least not yet. But AU has also set up a unit for that specifically that focusses on sexual harassment and abuse at the university,” Poulsen says, referring to AU’s new website ‘Zero tolerance’.

A new chat line will make getting help easier

To reach even more students, the AU Helpline will be launching a chatline in February, so that students can write instead of calling. Just like the phone hotline, the chat line will be anonymous and confidential.

“We want to make it even more accessible and easier for people who don’t like the idea of calling up strangers,” Poulsen explains.

The chat line will have the same opening hours as the phone hotline, and it will be staffed by the same volunteers.

“We’re setting up the chat together with Livslinjen (‘the lifeline’), who are also going to come out and train our volunteers to help people through chat. It’s a very professional set-up, so all the technical and legal stuff and anonymity are under control,” says Poulsen.

There will be a direct link to the chat line on the AU Helpline website. Before a chat starts, users will need to fill out a short form that will give the volunteers an idea about what issue they want to chat about.

And in future, the volunteers will also consider what can be done to keep the lines open when the need is greatest.

“Some students were disappointed that we were closed over Christmas. We want to find a balance between the volunteers taking their holiday, but also being there when the students need it,” Poulsen says.

We believe it makes a difference

Eva Poulsen has seen how much the students who call in benefit from the hotline.

“At the end of a session, we always ask if they feel better or are calmer. Generally, our experience is that this is the case. And the volunteers feel that they’ve helped, and that it made sense for us to start the hotline. Even though some of the calls can be tough,” she says.

She stresses that the volunteers make every effort to refer callers to other sources of help that offer greater expertise.

Facts

  • The AU Helpline opened on September 3rd 2018
  • The helpline is run by 20 AU student volunteers
  • The helpline is only for AU students
  • You can reach the helpline Monday through Thursday, 7pm - 10 pm, at 87 15 16 46.
  • The AU Helpline was established in collaboration with the Student Council, the Student Counselling Service and Aarhus University.
  • Auhelpline.dk (in English)
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