Mental Health Guidelines for Students
The outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has been declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) and has spread worldwide. The protection of students and educational facilities is particularly important. As global citizens, they are powerful agents of change and the next generation of caregivers, scientists, and doctors. Any crisis presents the opportunity to help them learn, cultivate compassion and increase resilience while building a safer and more caring community.
Guidelines for students
The current situation is beyond any individual control. It can be compared to being stuck in the longest possible traffic jam with everything around coming to a standstill. For students it can be difficult to manage their time, as they are used to be driven by their achievement goals and academic schedules. Additionally, the absence of usual interactions with friends and colleagues can lead to feelings of confused, loneliness or purposelessness. While it is difficult to control the turn of events as far as the corona virus is concerned, but students do have a choice to make best use of the huge amount of time that they suddenly possess.
One way would be to focus on things that are important or enjoyable, but are usually neglected due to busy schedules. This includes reading, preparing for exams that have been postponed but would happen sooner or later, optional online courses, fitness plans, talking to old friends, learning a language, playing a musical instrument, drawing, painting, cooking, etc. This is also a chance to care for loved ones and to stay connected with those who are happy to have us in their lives.
A great challenge is to stick to plans even when there is no external pressure to do so, and this is where self-discipline comes into play. Those who find it difficult to work without a deadline, can find themselves slipping again and again into idleness. So what can one do about this? Making a routine would be the best way to manage this. Setting small concrete goals give a sense of achievement and help in time allocation. Such a personal schedule should however not be looked at in black and white, as it can cause one to lose motivation when unable to keep up. It is important to remember to be firm, but also to be flexible, willing to do better next time. This will keep the inner voice, that criticizes the self in bad situations, at bay.
It is natural to feel negative emotions in times like these. Students should try to check the situations and thoughts that trigger the bad feelings. Generating at least two other more positive explanation of the situation and seeing if they can replace the first negative thoughts that came automatically to the mind will help. The ability to notice the bright side in every situation and to retain hope is the key to staying strong even in the worst of times. Other strategies include seeking a listening ear or social support to find solutions to the problems, helping others, feeling gratitude for all the good things for past accomplishments, channelizing negative emotions into creative work, praying and using humour.
It is important to understand that holding the belief that things “must” or “should” happen in a certain way is not helpful, because in in reality they are actually things we “would like to” or “prefer” having. Mixing up want and needs is not uncommon. Realizing this helps to let go of control and have acquiescence with some level of frustration and unpredictability.
Other helpful tips to remember
It is normal to feel sad, worried, confused, scared or angry. Know that you are not alone and talk to someone you trust, like your parent or teacher so that you can help keep yourself and your school safe and healthy. Ask questions, educate yourself and get information from reliable sources
Protect yourself and others. Wash your hands frequently, always with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Remember to not touch your face. Do not share cups, eating utensils, food or drinks with others
Be a leader in keeping yourself, your school, family and community healthy. Share what you learn about preventing disease with your family and friends, especially with younger children. Model good practices such as sneezing or coughing into your elbow and washing your hands, especially for younger family members
Don’t stigmatize your peers or tease anyone about being sick; remember that the virus doesn’t follow geographical boundaries, ethnicities, age or ability or gender.
Tell your parents, another family member, or a caregiver if you feel sick, and ask to stay home.
If you must stay at home, maintain a healthy lifestyle (including a proper diet, sleep, exercise and social contact with loved ones at home). Keep in touch with family and friends through email, phone calls and making use of social media platforms.
Social media could help you stay in touch with people, but might also make you feel anxious including if people are sharing news stories or posting about their worries. Consider taking a break or limiting how you use social media. You might decide to view particular groups or pages but not scroll through timelines or newsfeeds
Decrease the time you and your family spending watching or listening to upsetting media coverage.
Find ways to work or study at home
Discuss the different reactions you may experience and know that these are normal reactions to an abnormal situation. It’s important that you express and communicate your feelings.
You can make your own Public Service Announcements via social media, radio or even local TV broadcasting - Media literacy lessons empower you to be critical thinkers and makers, effective communicators and active citizens.
Stress can affect your mental wellbeing and your work and can affect you even after the situation improves. If the stress becomes overwhelming, please approach student counsellor or student psychiatrist to ensure you are provided with appropriate support.