for better mental health

Coronavirus and your wellbeing – for young people

Information for young people who are worried about coronavirus and want to know how to cope with changes to their lives.

This page is also available in Welsh (Cymraeg).

Coronavirus and your wellbeing

You might be feeling overwhelmed, sad, or confused about the outbreak of 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, schools have closed, and people are now self-isolating to protect themselves and others.

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

What is coronavirus?

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

The symptoms are usually a high fever and a cough you haven't had before.

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

Parents and carers - we're here for you too.

Read our page on supporting your teen's wellbeing.

Some common terms explained

The spread of a disease worldwide.

The government has asked us all to stay at home and only have face-to-face contact with people living with us.

We should only leave our homes if we need to buy food or medicines, to receive medical care, or for some exercise once a day.

This means staying at home and not leaving for a specified amount of time.

If you have, or think you have, coronavirus, you need to stay at home for 7 days from when your symptoms started.

If you are well, but someone you live with has the virus, you must stay at home for 14 days from when their symptoms started.

This includes not going out for groceries or to pick up medicine. But, you can leave the house once a day for some exercise, as long as you stay 2 metres away from other people.

People who are self-isolating should use online deliveries, ask friends, families or neighbours for support, or let the government know that they need help getting food or medicines.

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

"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 are less likely to 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.

This may also help you feel less worried about self-isolation.

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.

If something helps you feel better or relax, make time to do it – this could be something creative, such as drawing or baking, or listening to music.

The Anna Freud Centre also has lots of ideas for self-care you can browse through.

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

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

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 your ability to fight the virus. Read our information on looking after your wellbeing for more information.

Anxiety UK also have advice on how to deal with health anxiety during this time.

"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."

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.

You can speak to your care worker to find out if they can update your care plan to cover you staying at home, and how your care will be assessed 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.

"The cancellation of GCSEs has caused me to take a couple of steps backwards in trying to get better, but I'm aware of this so I know I'm in the right place to move forward."

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'll struggle 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 vulnerable friends or family:

You can send them texts and pictures, and call them on the phone regularly. You could even video them, if that's available to you both.

You could encourage them to tidy up around the house, or do some gentle exercises indoors.

They could open the window, or go outside into their garden if they have one.

Listen to them and support each other. You can also share this web page with them, or our guide for adults.

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, and with looking after your own health and wellbeing, to limit the risk 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 for alternative 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.

How can I cope with staying at home?

Staying inside all day might not feel very fun, especially because it's not your choice, and you may find it tough after several weeks.

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

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. If you miss going outside for exercise, you can still keep active at home  the NHS has more information.

Message, call or video-call family or friends and 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, you can ask them to change the subject.

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.

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. 

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

You may even be able to blacklist or block seeing certain words and phrases from your feed if you feel it would help.

"Having breaks from social media definitely helped control my worry that I wasn't doing enough compared to other people."

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

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

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.

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

Ideas include writing a diary, playing video games, 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 for 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."

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.

What can I do if I'm worried about staying inside 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 on over who gets the TV.

If you'd like something in particular to happen, 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.

Bear in mind that parents or carers may not know how to fill the time with you at home, or know the best way to support you.

"I wouldn’t say that my Mum is very aware of how bad my mental health can get so I don’t feel like I can talk to her about it."

But spending this amount of time with them could be a new opportunity to bond and learn more about each other. You could:

Share your hobbies and interests with them, or ask about some of theirs (or something they did when they were your age).

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 or carer 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.

The Children's Society also have ideas on how to avoid conflict at home. 

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.

How can I cope with changes to school or college?

Now that schools have closed, you might feel lots of mixed emotions about what the next few weeks and months hold.

"At first I was very motivated in doing something useful with my time, but as the days have passed, my motivation has faded, however I'm trying my best to remain positive."

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."

Schools and colleges are now closed for all students, except if you have a parent or carer who's a 'key worker', or if you have a social worker and/or a care plan - in which case you may be asked to keep attending through the Easter holidays as well.

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 be arranging ways for you to begin 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 should have been contacted to discuss what will happen while they're closed.

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

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."

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!

At the moment, it's hard to tell what will happen. 

Currently, the plan is to keep schools closed for everyone except those who need to attend, such as the children of key workers. 

As soon as we hear more information, we'll update you here. 

"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."

Where else can I get support?

The Children's Commissioner for Wales and Meic have information for young people about the coronavirus, in English and Welsh. 

The Scouts have a collection of activities that can be done indoors and in your garden, to beat the boredom and have fun on your own or with others. 

Girlguiding have also launched an online resource hub of activities for children and young people, to have fun and help care for your wellbeing indoors.

Beat have created a hub of advice and support for those who have an eating problem and are finding things harder during the pandemic. 

For young people in care, and young care leavers, Become have advice relating to coronavirus. 

If you still feel overwhelmed, or like you can't keep yourself safe right now, you can ring Childline or text YoungMind's Crisis Messenger service. A counsellor will be there to talk things through with you.

This information was last updated on 28 May 2020. 

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