General mental wellbeing advice for young people

Last reviewed on 1 August 2021

From doing #PEWithJoe to painting rainbows for your front window, having video chats with your mates to perfecting a TikTok dance, you've probably focused on lots of positive stuff throughout the COVID-19 lockdowns. We know that being at home and not being able to see your friends has been difficult – even with restrictions easing, you might still feel confused, worried and a bit overwhelmed about what’s going on with coronavirus.

Research in 2020 by Kooth found that many young people felt unhappy and lonely during the first lockdown while a report by Partnership for Young London and Good Thinking revealed that boredom and uncertainty were key concerns. If you have existing mental health needs, coronavirus could be putting even more pressure on you. In a survey by YoungMinds, 83% of respondents agreed that the pandemic has made their mental health worse.

The Good Thinking team wants you to know that it’s OK to not be OK. Everyone is finding this hard. So, how can we help to make the current situation less scary? Let’s start by answering some of the questions you might have.

Coronavirus is a new virus that causes an illness called COVID-19. It is being described as a pandemic because it’s happening in lots of different countries. The symptoms include a high temperature and a cough. You can find further details about it on the Government and NHS websites.

It’s really important that you and your family follow the official advice – as this will help to protect you, reduce pressure on the NHS and save lives. Most people only get mild symptoms of coronavirus and don’t need to see a doctor or go to hospital.

Even though experts say that children and young people are less likely to get coronavirus, you still need to follow social distancing and self-isolation guidance so you don’t pass it on to anyone else. One good way of remembering this is Hands. Face. Space.

Your school will have safety measures in place. If you’re at secondary school or college, you'll be advised to wear a face covering in all areas. You'll also have to take a COVID-19 test twice a week – find out more about the test in this video.

It’s perfectly natural to worry about your own health and that of other people in your family. Have a chat with your parents or carers or an older sibling about this – it’s important that they know how you feel. Always remember that following the official advice reduces the risk of getting the virus and that the vaccine rollout is proceeding well.

Social distancing (not mixing with people outside your household) helps to slow down the spread of the virus and save lives – that's why everyone has been asked to stay at home for so long and why some COVID-19 restrictions are still in place.

NHS guidance is that self-isolation must happen when you (or someone you live with) has symptoms of coronavirus. You shouldn’t even leave home to buy food or go for a walk. You might have heard some people call this “quarantine”. The NHS runs a Test and Trace service to let people know if they have been in contact with someone who has coronavirus (COVID-19).

Read our blog by Callum (aged 12) who had to self-isolate.

Some people already have a health condition that means they might get very sick from coronavirus. This includes people who have had an organ transplant, people with specific cancers and people with severe respiratory conditions, such as cystic fibrosis and bad asthma. The NHS has written to everyone who is considered to be vulnerable to explain what they should do and how they can get support.

To slow down the spread of coronavirus, all schools across England were closed for several months from March 2020 and again between January and March 2021. The only children allowed to go to school despite the closures were those with essential worker parents (NHS staff, supermarket workers, police officers etc), children with special needs and children who couldn't be cared for safely at home. Most children and young people were able to carry on with their schooling at home, with teachers sending work, students connecting remotely and parents or carers providing support for home schooling.

It might seem unfair that you couldn't hang out with your friends or visit your relatives for many months but this was all part of slowing down the spread of the virus through social distancing and shielding. If you have elderly grandparents or friends with certain health conditions, they could get very sick if they get the virus. The restrictions have now been eased – you can find the latest guidance about mixing with other households on the UK Government website.

As lockdown restrictions have now been eased, you should be able to get back to doing the things you love. You might find that your favourite group or club does things a bit differently because of COVID-19, however. You might even be able to go on holiday although there are still some restrictions on travel to foreign countries. You can find full details on the UK Government website.

With so much talk of coronavirus, it’s not surprising that you might struggle to get to sleep, wake up in the night or have bad dreams. It’s important that you get enough rest though so switch off your devices and do something relaxing before bedtime. Talk to your parents if lack of sleep is becoming a big problem.

Being in a confined space and not able to go to their workplace or see friends can be very frustrating. They’ll also be worrying about you and they might have additional concerns about their job and finances and where they can get essential supplies... but they won’t want to burden you with their worries! There are some small things you could do that might help to reduce their stress, like offering to do some chores or giving them a hug. If you’re worried that any tensions at home are getting out of hand, there are helplines you can call (see below).

Top tips

  • Stay connected and be open with your family and friends about how you feel.
  • Stick to a routine – you might even like to draw up a schedule (a bit like your school or college timetable) and put it on your bedroom wall.
  • Stay busy but don’t overdo it (check out our ‘8 fun things to do’ list below).
  • Eat healthy food, stay hydrated and do some exercise.
  • Be kind – doing something for someone else is really good for your mental wellbeing. Maybe your family could help one of your neighbours? Or raise some money for charity?
  • Sleep is really important for your wellbeing so try to get into a good routine.
  • Balance out screen time and other activities and don’t forget about online safety rules.
  • Understand that not every story about coronavirus that you see online is true – try to only get expert advice from the Government or the NHS.
  • Acknowledge that the coronavirus pandemic will end and focus on the exciting things you’ll be able to do then – like seeing your friends at school or college, going travelling, starting university or getting a job.
  • Ask for support if you need it – for example, if you’re being bullied, seeing conflict at home or if you have existing mental health needs.


8 fun things to do

  1. Find a recipe online and make dinner for the whole family
  2. Learn a dance, video yourself doing it and share it on TikTok, Instagram or YouTube (if you’re 13+)
  3. Take a virtual tour of the Natural History Museum or Buckingham Palace
  4. Grow something from seed, either in your garden or inside your house or flat
  5. Do stuff together as a family, like an online fitness workout (seeing mum or dad trying to do ‘spiderman’ moves will definitely make you smile!) or an ‘at home’ movie night
  6. Have a virtual play date with one of your friends, using your games console or an app like FaceTime or WhatsApp
  7. Write a letter to a loved one (granny will love to hear from you!)
  8. Learn something new – baking, sewing, a foreign language, a computer game, a song


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The Good Thinking team hopes you found this article useful and we’d like to finish with one final thought...

Although what is going on is really difficult for everyone, try to focus on the positives. You’re probably becoming more resilient and more independent. You’re getting the chance to spend more time with your family and strengthen the bond you have with them. And you’re seeing how there are helpers everywhere and how communities are supporting vulnerable people.

Useful websites

Coronavirus explained

Tools for learning and fun

Mental health support

Helplines

Check out Good Thinking's advice about dealing with anger and uncertainty. If your parent or carer is an essential worker or volunteer, read this article by the Good Thinking team. If you're a student, listen to our podcast about supporting students through coronavirus and read our advice about staying mentally healthy at university. Good Thinking also recommends the following free NHS-approved apps to help young Londoners look after their mental health: Clear Fear, Feeling Good Teens, Move Mood and Student Health App.

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