for better mental health

Student mental health during coronavirus

Whether you have an existing mental health problem, or you're starting to find things difficult, the pandemic has put a huge amount of extra strain on students.

To find out about how coronavirus might affect you going home at the end of term, check the recent GOV.UK student advice. Contact your university student support team for details about the December 'travel window' arrangements.

For money concerns, visit these pages for the latest on coronavirus student finance:

If you need general guidance, see our pages on how to cope with student life. For more about your mental health in the pandemic, see our coronavirus hub.

How is coronavirus affecting the mental health of students?

Coronavirus is affecting student mental health in so many different ways. Being a student in a pandemic is a new experience that we’re always finding out more about. Mind’s coronavirus survey results revealed the following:

  • People aged 18–24 reported worse mental health and wellbeing during the 2020 UK lockdown.
  • Nearly three quarters (73%) of students said that their mental health declined during the lockdown.

"I’m a 45-year-old mature student and should be writing my dissertation as it’s my final year. Instead I am frozen with fear, my brain is not working and I’m failing miserably."

On top of your already stressful student life, you may be experiencing these common thoughts and feelings:

  • Worried about how the virus is impacting you, those around you, your friends and your family.
  • Concerned by lockdown measures having a negative impact on your mental health.
  • Unsupported by your university and peers when you need help and reassurance.
  • Sad or angry that you can’t make new or see current friends at university.
  • Overwhelmed by having to adjust to new working environments, teaching methods and routines.
  • Stressed about the impact on your finances (particularly your fees and loans).
  • Uncertain about your future and job prospects (also worrying about completing your studies).
  • Stigmatised or unfairly judged by people who have seen negative images of students in the media.
  • Disappointed by how the university life you imagined isn’t meeting your expectations.
  • Frustrated by other students breaking rules, or how your university is handling coronavirus outbreaks (campus lockdowns and mandatory isolation, for example).

"I am a student as well as working part time, and my studies have been seriously impacted. I've also been placed on the furlough scheme at work which has affected the ability to pay for my course."

If you're experiencing any of these feelings, try to remind yourself of the following:

  • There is no 'normal' response. Having difficult thoughts about the impact of the virus is understandable, especially after living through it for so long.
  • Feelings can change day-to-day. How you feel right now may be affected by factors out of your control. You might even feel worse before you feel things are improving.
  • This won't last forever. It may feel hard right now, but this situation is extremely unusual. Remember that this isn't how life will always be.
Anna

Why students should receive mental health support at university

"I made it as far as the Students’ Union before I had to be honest with myself. I was not OK. I wanted to go home and crawl into bed."

Tips for coping at university during coronavirus

However you’re feeling about coronavirus and your mental health, you can do some things to support yourself. The pandemic may have limited your choices, but try to focus on what you can do to help.

Tell them how you're feeling. This could be friends from university or from home, your family, doctor or therapist. If you can’t meet people you’d like to see in person, make plans to video chat instead. See our pages on talking to friends and family and talking to your GP for tips on starting conversations.

If you're struggling with your academic work, student finances or mental health, it's ok to ask for help. A good place to start is by speaking to your GP, your university student services team or mental health team if there is one. See our page on student mental health support for ideas of who to ask or where to turn to.

Peer support brings people together who've had similar experiences, in order to support each other. You can take part anonymously. Student Minds has a student-specific peer support service. Mind runs a service for over 18s called Side by Side and Togetherall runs a 24/7 online community for anyone over 16.

Keeping informed of current events might feel important. You may be following coronavirus news or updates relating to your studies. But if you’re struggling with your mental health, you may want to take a break from worrying stories.

"I think I watch the news too much, mostly I'm just looking for some hope, but every time I see it, it makes me feel so much worse."

Social media can help you stay in touch with people, but can also make you feel anxious or upset. This might happen if you see negative content about universities, students or factors affecting your studies. Consider taking a break or limiting how you use social media. For more information see our page on online mental health.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed with the situation right now, it might feel hard to think about looking after yourself. But taking steps to look after your physical health can help make a difference in how you feel. It might help to visit our pages on physical activity, food and mood, sleep and recreational drugs and alcohol.

If you’re struggling at the moment, it’s important to be gentle with yourself. There is no right or wrong way to feel about coronavirus and how it may be affecting your life. Try to remind yourself of this regularly.

female holding a brightly coloured textbook

How I coped with anxiety at university

"I learnt that the source of my anxiety was a fear of failure. I'd definitely recommend making a note of where and how to access your university's counselling services."

You can find advice for coping with difficult feelings, emotions and experiences in our A-Z of mental health. You may find these pages especially helpful:

Student Space

Student Space is a website set up by the charity Student Minds. It helps you get the coronavirus support you need, with information in both English and Welsh.

The website gives you:

  • Access to student support services by phone, text, email and webchat.
  • Information and helpful tips to get you through the challenges of coronavirus.
  • Guidance on how to find out what support is available at your university.

Student Space has guidance and articles on:

The article Why uncertainty can be stressful explores the impact of these uncertain times on students. It covers potential triggers to look out for in yourself, plus an action plan and ideas on how to reduce any anxieties you feel. There is further information about studying during coronavirus.

The article Wishing this wasn't happening aims to help you accept difficult feelings and responses associated with this situation. It provides practical tips to help you challenge these thoughts. Read more about mental health and wellbeing.

Through real-life student stories, such as the Communicating online video, learn about coping with the new experience of being a student in Covid-19. There are also written articles about friendships and social life.

Unfortunately, the pandemic means more of us are facing grief through bereavement, or other kinds of loss. The article Looking after your wellbeing while grieving gives tips for coping. It might be useful to read the resources about grief.

Getting mental health support at university

Understanding your mental health support options as a student can be very difficult. Whether you have an existing problem or you're beginning to find things harder to manage, knowing how and where to get support isn't easy.

As support can vary in quality and ease-of-access, it’s good to consider a variety of sources. You might want to seek support from:

Contact student support and welfare services, your student union, counsellors, clubs/societies and tutors. Read more about getting support from your place of study, but bear in mind that some services might need to be held online during coronavirus.

Register at your local GP, get support from student-focused charities like Student Minds, helplines like Samaritans and online peer support communities. Read more about support from outside university.

Share how you’re feeling with people at university or at home, both online and in person where you can. Read more about support from your friends and family.

If possible, try to assess your options when you feel that things are going well. You might find it easier to know where to get help if you start having difficulty coping.

See our page on mental health support and treatment for students for more information and ideas. Student Space also has a useful tool to search for mental health support available at your university.

Urgent support for student mental health

If you're in crisis and need to talk now, there are many online services and helplines with trained people ready to listen. These people will not judge you. They could help you make sense of what you're feeling.

  • Samaritans. You can contact Samaritans 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, to talk about anything that is upsetting you. You can call 116 123 (free from any phone), email [email protected] or visit a Samaritans branch. The Samaritans Welsh Language Line is available on 0808 164 0123 (7pm–11pm every day).

  • Student Space. Access free, confidential support services by phoning 0808 189 5260, texting the word STUDENT to 85258, emailing [email protected], or via webchat support. The service is available from 4pm–11pm.

  • Nightline. Check the Nightline website to see if your place of study offers a night-time support service. You can get in touch by phone, email or online chat. As Nightline volunteers are students, they might be more likely to understand how you’re feeling.

  • Papyrus HOPELINEUK. You can call Papyrus HOPELINEUK on 0800 068 4141 if you're under 35 and struggling with suicidal feelings, or concerned about a young person who might be struggling. It’s open 365 days a year from 9am–midnight. You can also email [email protected] or text 07860 039 967.

  • Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM). If you identify as male, you can call CALM on 0800 58 58 58 (5pm–midnight every day) or use the CALM webchat service.

At Mind you can visit our pages on helping yourself in a crisis. Our pages on helplines and listening services and useful contacts for students might also be helpful.

This information was published on 19 November 2020.

References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.

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