for better mental health

Coronavirus and your wellbeing – for young people

Information for young people on looking after your wellbeing during coronavirus and coping with changes to your life.

This page is also available in Welsh (Cymraeg).

Coronavirus and your wellbeing

You might be feeling overwhelmed, sad, or confused about coronavirus and feel worried about yourself, or your family and friends.

This is completely normal – things keep changing as we learn more about the virus and schools are starting to open for some year groups, but we still can’t see all the people we would normally spend time with.

We're here to give you advice and support to help you through this time.

This page has information on the following:

What is coronavirus?
Some common terms explained
What can I do if I'm worried about my health?
How can I cope with spending more time at home?
What can I do if I'm worried about spending more time at home with others?

What will happen with my treatment or support?
How can I cope with changes to school or college?
What can I do if I'm worried about someone else?
Where else can I get support?

Feeling worried about changes to lockdown?

Read our information to get tips on how to cope and adjust.

What is coronavirus?

The coronavirus is a new disease that is affecting people across the world. It's caused by a virus which affects people's lungs and airways. 

The symptoms may include a high fever, a new cough, or a change to or loss of your sense of taste or smell.  

Experts aren’t completely sure how it’s spread, but there are simple steps you can take to protect yourself and others.

The Mix has a good explanation of what coronavirus is, how it can affect us and how to protect yourself. 

Some common terms explained

The spread of a disease worldwide.

The government has asked us all to stay at home as much as we can.

Experts have suggested that we should ‘social distance’ if we go outside to stop the spread of the disease. This means keeping a distance of two metres between yourself and other people.

If you can reach out and touch someone – that probably means you’re too close.

This means staying at home and not going outside for any reason.

If you have, or think you have, coronavirus, you need to ‘self-isolate.’ This means staying at home for 7 days from the day your symptoms first start. You may also be contacted by the NHS and asked to self-isolate if you have had close contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus.

If you are well, but someone you live with thinks they may have the virus, you must also stay at home for 14 days from when their symptoms started. This is because it can take two weeks for any symptoms to show.

People who are self-isolating should use online deliveries, or ask friends, families or neighbours for help with getting food or medicines.

 

This is another name for self-isolation. It helps stop diseases spreading from yourself to other people.

People with certain health conditions have been asked to ‘shield’ at home – this means self-isolating to protect themselves from catching coronavirus.

If you are shielding or in a shielding bubble, you are now allowed to spend some time outdoors. You’ll still need to stay two metres apart from people you don’t live with.

"Quarantine is not a holiday – it's an emergency, and emergencies mean less functioning. Don’t let yourself feel bad about this."

What can I do if I'm worried about my health?

It's natural to feel worried, sad, scared, angry, or annoyed about the coronavirus, feel several emotions at once, or even just feel really confused.

But there are lots of things you can do to look after your physical and mental health that may help you to feel better:

Follow advice from the NHS and Public Health Wales. This includes information about staying at home, how to wash your hands, and other things you can do to limit the spread of the virus.

Be kind to yourself, too – if their advice makes you feel more worried, or you find it difficult to follow, talk to someone you trust like your parent, carer or a doctor.

You could visit the BBC or the NHS. If you see or hear updates from individual people, like on social media, they may not be correct.

It can be overwhelming to constantly be reminded about the coronavirus.

By only checking for updates at times you specifically set, it will limit how much you take in, and give yourself space to think and relax.

YoungMinds have more information on social media and mental health.

Especially if you're feeling worried a lot of the time. You could open up to a friend or talk to a trusted adult like your parent or carer.

If you'd rather talk to someone you don't know, you could call Childline using their confidential service.

"Speak to someone about your struggles, whether you think they are large or small. If it feels significant to you, then it is."

Make a plan for how you'll spend your time at home – you can think about things to do, things to study, things that can make you feel better, and people to contact online.

You could also discuss with a trusted adult how they can help you, such as reminding you of your plan and checking in on you regularly.

Making a plan may also help you feel less worried about self-isolation.

Sleep is very important, especially if you have been feeling worried, and eating and drinking enough will help you keep your energy up and stay hydrated.

These things will help you look after your mental wellbeing, as well as your physical health.

 

"It's hard when images on social media circulate reminding us to be productive all the time, eat perfectly, exercise every day, maintain every friendship and pick up new hobbies."

I'm being bullied because of my ethnicity

You may have heard public figures calling the virus racist names, seen some people avoid others in the street or in shops, or been bullied yourself in person or online. 

But no ethnicity or group of people is to blame for coronavirus, and if you or someone you know is being bullied or abused because of it, that's known as a hate crime. The best thing you can do is tell a trusted adult about what's happening.

Childline has more information about racism and racial bullying, if you want to find out more, and a confidential helpline, if you want to talk about anything.

If you, or your parent or carer decides to report it as a crime, or you would like more information or advice, Victim Support has a Supportline for young people that you can ring for free.

How can I cope with spending more time at home?

Staying inside more than normal might not feel very fun, especially because it's not your choice, and you may be finding it tough after a couple months.

But there are things you can try which might improve your ability to cope, and boost your wellbeing:

If you can’t go outside, just opening a window and looking out at what's around you, while taking in the sunlight, can help give you a feeling of space. This will also help if you're feeling like you're trapped inside.

There are lots of way you can be active indoors, such as:

  • tidying your room  
  • dancing to music
  • going up and down the stairs
  • doing online exercise workouts or yoga. You could try streaming a free workout or yoga session on YouTube.

For more ideas on activities you can do indoors or in your garden, visit the Scouts, Girlguiding and National Trust websites.

Message, call or video-call family or friends you can’t meet up with as a way to support each other. It will help you feel connected, and give a sense of things continuing as usual.

If they start talking about the coronavirus too much, or you think differently, you can ask them to change the subject.

Knowing what you'll be doing each day can help, especially if you've been asked to stay away from school, college or work.

If you can study during school or college hours, or chat to friends at the same time as you usually would, it may help you feel like things haven't changed as much.

Having things to get up for, and knowing what will happen when, may help you feel more in control.

You may be able to stream a film-watching party with some friends, or find an online singing group you can join.

Just be careful about who you're connecting with, and don't join any private groups or chats without your parent or carer's permission. For advice on how to stay safe online, visit Childline’s website.

You could check them only at certain times of the day, or even switch your phone off for several hours.

You may even be able to block seeing certain words and phrases from your feed, if you feel it would help. Check the settings on the sites you use more information.

This does not just include sleeping, and what you eat and drink, but also being active, creative, and kind to others – and yourself.

If something helps you feel good, make time to do it – this could be something like drawing or baking, or listening to music.

These things all affect how we think about ourselves, other people, and things that happen around us. You can read more about this on our wellbeing page.

"Try to stick to a routine and good sleep pattern. Keep in touch with friends and avoid talking to people who stress you out."

Self-care can help you manage your thoughts and feelings, and may protect your mental health from getting worse.

Ideas include writing a diary, asking for help if you need it, relaxing, and looking after your health.

"I have an achievements jar where I write at least one thing I achieved that day (and date it) and put it in the jar." 

You can visit The Mix or the Anna Freud Centre for lots more ideas on self-care.

They could be a friend, a family member, a care worker, or a helpline service – anyone who you feel can give you support for how you're feeling.

You can read our information on finding support for more ideas.

"Allow yourself to feel all the emotions you need to... Something that helps me is writing down how I feel, it's just a great way to process and understand your emotions."

What can I do if I'm worried about spending more time at home with others?

If you live with other people, whether that's your family, flatmates or your partner, there's bound to be a bit of friction at some point as you stay indoors together.

Here are some tips on how to get on well with each other: 

Together, see where you can align your routines, so no-one ends up arguing later over who gets the TV.

If you'd like something, like a movie night or time to yourself, this can also be a good time to agree on it.

Try to respect everyone's privacy – not everyone may want to talk about something, or hang out at the same time.

Spend some time on your own if you want to, as well as time connecting with others.

If you're all at home together, there may be an expectation to split up tasks evenly. But if someone still needs to study or work from home, make sure this is taken into account, so it's a fair agreement of who does what, when.

Do something you wouldn't normally have time for – play games, watch something together, or give a room a mini-makeover.

Start the conversation about how you're feeling, if you feel able to – we have information on opening up to others to support you.

Your parent, carer or sibling might be feeling a mixture of emotions now, too.

If you're able to, they may really appreciate you supporting them as well – from giving them a hug, to doing something extra around the house or helping with school work.

If home isn't safe

If you're worried about staying at home with someone because it isn't safe for you, whether you're with a partner, family member or friend, the most important thing you can do is keep yourself safe.

Childline and the Hideout have advice on domestic abuse, and Refuge has a free helpline you can ring for support.

What will happen with my treatment or support?

With everything going on, you might be concerned about how to access support, medication or treatment.

It's still possible to talk to professionals about your health, such as your doctors, care workers, and pharmacists. They may have just changed how they'd like you to contact them, for example your doctor might want to phone you rather than see you at their surgery.

Here's some information which might help:

You can look into ordering your repeat prescription online, by app, or over the phone  you may need an adult to help you with this. 

If you have symptoms of coronavirus, you should also ask someone to pick up your prescription for you, or ask your pharmacy about home delivery.

You can speak to someone in your mental health team to find out if your support can carry on, or if changes need to be made for the time being.

If it's appropriate, you can ask about having appointments over the phone, or online, or ask an adult to help look into it for you.

If you have been struggling with how you’re feeling for some time, and think you need some support to help you cope, talking to your doctor is a good place to start.

If you don’t want to talk to your doctor, or you’re unsure about what other support is out there for you, you can find more information on our finding support page.

“I would urge anyone who is struggling with their mental health during the pandemic to reach out and seek help.”
-Dr Kate Lovett (Psychiatrist working during coronavirus)

You can speak to your care worker to find out if they can update your care plan to cover while you stay at home for more than normal, and how your care will be decided while you're at home.

The support you receive under your EHC plan or Statement of SEN might be affected by changes made by the government.

If you're worried about this or want to talk to someone, you can speak to your council or your school's Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO).

The government has made changes to the way adult social care is provided. If you have turned 18 and want to know more about the changes, you can read about them here.

If you are in England, the government has also made changes to the way your council needs to plan your move from child to adult social care. If you're receiving care or you're a young carer, this might affect:

  • the support you receive as you get ready to leave children's social care
  • the support you receive once you turn 18.

If you're worried about this or want more information, you can speak to your social worker.

If your support has changed, or you're still not sure what is happening, talk to your parent or carer about what you can do together, so they can help support you until you get more answers.

“It is a myth that services have closed down and help is not available during the pandemic. We are very open and keen to reach out to people who need our help.”
-Dr Kate Lovett (Psychiatrist working during coronavirus)

How can I cope with changes to school or college?

As schools are closed for most students, you might feel lots of mixed emotions about what the next few weeks and months hold.

Here's some information which might help:

Your teachers and exam boards will be looking at your predicted grades, coursework, classwork, and mock exam grades, and working together to create a 'predicted grade' they think will be an honest representation of what you would achieve.

If you aren't happy with your grade, you might be able to sit your exams when schools reopen and can set them up, or sit them next summer (2021). We will update this information when we hear more.

The government wants you to be able to move on to whatever you want the next stage of your life to be in autumn, whether that's further education, apprenticeships, or higher education. This means they'll be supporting you to do this as much as they can, by changing some of the normal rules.

Papyrus have written an open letter to young people about how changes to exams may be making you feel. You can also talk to your Exams Officer, School Counsellor or Chaplain, if you're still worried or have other questions.

"One thing to remind ourselves is that what's happening is beyond our control right now."

Secondary schools, sixth forms and colleges have closed for most students, except if you have a parent or carer who's a 'key worker', or if you have a social worker or a care plan.

The government have announced plans for schools in England to open for Year 10 and Year 12 students from the middle of June. Only a small number of students from each year will be allowed in school at the same time. You will also be encouraged to keep a safe distance from others when travelling to and from school.

Your classes may have a different timetable until schools and colleges reopen fully, and as there will be no exams, your classes may also have a different focus. Your teachers will be able to explain more to you.

Your school or college will let you know ways you can continue learning at home, such as sending you work via email or post, providing virtual lessons, and finding ways to provide support from teachers.

Your parents may also be sent information to help you study, or want to help teach you. If you're worried about any of this, you can talk to your school or college. 

For tips on how to set up a place to study at home, visit BBC Bitesize.

You may find the next couple of months difficult to get through if you have friends, or a girlfriend or boyfriend, you're no longer going to be able to see in person.

But you can speak to them online, and call or text them regularly. Try scheduling this in so you have something to look forward to.

And remember, it's not forever, you'll be back with them soon.

"Keeping in touch with friends and planning for when you can see each other again can help remind you that this will be over one day."

You should have been contacted to talk about ways you can get support while schools are closed for most students.

If you haven't, please talk to your parent or carer first if you feel able to. Otherwise, contact your School Counsellor or Chaplain.

If you're in Year 11 or 13, you will probably have had a leavers' event cancelled.

While you may not get to celebrate with your classmates in person for now, you can organise something when you're back together in person, create a virtual yearbook people can add messages and photos to, or host an online leavers' party and get dressed up at home!

"Since being in isolation, I’ve been able to take more time for myself and focus on doing things that make me happy. Since exams have been cancelled, I’m also less stressed and, although I’m worried about the outbreak, I’m trying to see the positives."

What can I do if I'm worried about someone else?

It's normal to feel sad or guilty about distancing yourself from someone you love or care about. You might be worried that they’re struggling with less face to face contact, or feel worried about their health.

But remember that it's not forever, and it's about protecting them and looking after them, even from a distance.

If you're worried about friends or family:

Sending them texts and pictures, and agreeing a regular time to talk to each other on the phone, will help them feel they’re supported and are being thought of. You could even video call them, if that's available to you both.

Let them know that you’re there if they want to talk. You can also share this web page with them, or our guide for adults.

You could encourage them to tidy up around the house, or do some gentle exercises indoors or outside if this is possible.

You may be worried about a family member who is working in unsafe conditions.

You can show your support for them by checking in, asking how work is and how they’re coping. You could also share our information on coping as key worker with them.

Send them a message, or say thank you to them on social media through our #SpeakYourMind challenge on TikTok.

They may understand, or even feel the same, and be able to support you. 

I'm a young carer

You may need to take extra care with your hygiene, such as washing your hands regularly and only coughing into a tissue, to stop the spread of the disease to the person you care for.

If you need to self-isolate because you have, or think you have, coronavirus, tell your social worker and the council so that they can arrange other support.

If you're about to turn 18 and have ongoing caring responsibilities, the support you receive when you turn 18 and move to adult social care may be affected by changes made by the government.

If you're worried about this or want more information, you can speak to your social worker.

Where else can I get support?

During this time, you may find you need more support, or want to connect with people who you identify with.

For a list of organisations who can help, visit our coronavirus useful contacts page.

Stay safe

  • If you're feeling overwhelmed, or like you want to hurt yourself, you can ring HOPELINEUK or text YoungMind's Crisis Messenger service and a counsellor will talk things through with you. 
  • If you feel like you may attempt suicide, or you have seriously hurt yourself, it’s an emergency. You or a trusted adult should call 999 and ask for an ambulance, even during the coronavirus outbreak.
  • Mental health emergencies are serious. You are not wasting anyone's time.

This information was last updated on 12 June 2020. 

  • The content reflects the best advice we have at this time. We will update it as necessary, particularly if there are changes to public health guidance.
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