Wellbeing information for students in Leeds

Many aspects of student life have had to change in response to the Coronavirus pandemic. A lot of teaching has had to move online, many students are studying remotely and there's less opportunity to socialise with other students this term.

It's natural that you may be experiencing some ups and downs during these challenging and uncertain times.

Whether you're returning to your studies, or, you're a new student transitioning from school and home life for the first time, it's particularly important to take steps to look after your mental wellbeing during this academic year.

How can I take care of my mental wellbeing during the pandemic?

Follow official guidance about coronavirus

  • Follow guidance from trusted sources such as www.nhs.uk, www.gov.uk and Leeds City Council and avoid false reports and speculation about the coronavirus on social media.
  • Keep up to date with guidance from your University or college.
  • Check their official webpages which contain dedicated information for students on their response to COVID-19. The information on these pages will be updated regularly and will detail how the universities are supporting their communities. You should use this, as your main source of information about your university's response to this situation.
  • Remember if in doubt, ask.

Prepare for online learning

You may be feeling anxious about how well you will learn through online sessions. Online learning is a skill, like any other, which can be developed and improved over time.

Create a space for learning - even if you're learning in the room where you sleep it's important to divide up your living space and have a dedicated space for learning.

Approach online learning in the same way you would learning on campus - get dressed at a regular time each day, before you start studying, and be ready with everything you need before classes begin. Mute your mobile and don't be distracted by emails or social media. Take notes and be ready to take part in sessions where active discussion is encouraged.

Take time out when you need it - being constantly online can be tiring. Take breaks from your screen especially before a long online session and turn off your mobile or device for an hour before bedtime.

Ask for help if you need to - speak to your tutor or study skills advisor if you need more help in adjusting to online learning.

Studentspace has got lots more great tips for getting the most out of virtual learning.

Organise your time

Break assignments down into smaller more manageable chunks and set some SMART goals with deadlines you can achieve. Review your to-do list each week to help reduce last minute stress. Check out if your college or university offers study skill support to develop these skills.

Try to prioritise - decide what needs doing now and what can wait. Think about which tasks will make the biggest difference and try to concentrate on one at a time. Don't try to do everything at once. If you're feeling very stressed it can help to pick one task now and focus on that.

Keep a structure to your day - it's easy to feel overwhelmed sometimes when juggling your studies with other areas of your life, especially during these difficult times. Keeping to a routine can help you to focus and create a sense of normality - try to get up and go to bed at the same times, for example, and eat at regular times.

Reduce the pressure

Feeling some pressure can help you to feel motivated when working towards a deadline or sitting an exam, for example. But everyone can have days when things can get too much.

Take regular breaks while studying - taking a break can help you feel more relaxed and better able to cope with any pressure. Get up and move around, go for a walk outside or take some gentle exercise. Open the window if you need some fresh air. It's also important to plan for some time to rest and recharge between terms whilst also meeting your study deadlines.

Create time for yourself each day - build in at least 30 minutes each day to shut off and do something you enjoy - read a book, watch your favourite TV programme, take some exercise or listen to music.

Be kind to yourself - leaving home for the first time, adapting to new ways of learning and trying to develop new relationships is a big deal. Adjusting can take time. Hang in there! And remember being at college or university is about developing yourself; it's not about being perfect all the time.

Find out more about stress, why we experience it and what we can do to help manage it.

Stay connected

If you're a new student you may be concerned about how you can make new friends at college or university due to social distancing guidance. Whilst there will be less physical events on campus there are opportunities to meet other students and socialise.

Make a plan to meet new people - make sure to nurture relationships with people you connect with. Stay in touch through Whatsapp or meet for a virtual coffee when you need a chat. Be there for your friends when they need a chat as well. Studentspace has tips for finding friends during the pandemic.

Join an online group or forum - find out what's still happening through your Student Union and look out for local volunteering opportunities. Our Coronavirus Mental Health Hub has details of online groups in Leeds which are supporting people's mental health during the pandemic.

Stay in contact with your old networks - it's also important to stay in touch with your old support network whether that's your family or school friends. Consider who supports you and is a positive presence in your life? Find ways to stay in contact whether that's a phone call, online message or a catch-up chat by Zoom.

Talk to someone if you're struggling

Don't keep problems to yourself - talking things through can relieve some of the pressure and help you feel more supported. Whether you're feeling stressed about exams, family or money worries or breaking up with a partner; another person can often see a problem in a different way and suggest things that might help. Try talking to a trust friend, family member, your tutor, student wellbeing team, or go to www.mindwell-leeds.org.uk/talk for local and national helplines.

Print off this information sheet and keep it folded in your bag or download it to your phone.

Finding support in a mental health crisis

Look after your physical health

Taking care of your physical health can help to improve your mood and mental wellbeing:

Try to take 30 minutes of moderate exercise every day - go for a walk or run. Visit our Coronavirus Mental Health Information Hub for exercise videos and resources to help you keep active at home.

Eat well - it's easy to turn to sugary or processed foods when you're busy studying but eating a well-balanced diet with lots of fresh vegetables can really make a difference.

Try to limit/avoid smoking, alcohol or drugs - we might feel like turning to some of these in times of stress. Unfortunately, they can make you feel more anxious as well as affecting your sleep and physical wellbeing. Find help in Leeds for alcohol or drug use and stopping smoking.

Keep hydrated - drink six to eight glasses of water or other non-sugar added fluids.

Limit caffeine - try to drink no more than two cups of coffee or four cups of tea a day and don't drink caffeine after 6pm - have decaff, herbal teas or water instead

Be kind to your body

How to take care of your mental health during the Coronavirus outbreak

Get a good night's sleep

Sleep is essential for both our physical and mental health. Everyone is different but most adults need an average of seven to nine hours of sleep. Not getting enough sleep can affect your memory and mental processes like learning, concentration and problem-solving. Getting a good night's sleep recharges you for the day ahead and can help you to feel stronger and better able to cope. There's lots of help in improving the way you sleep in the MindWell sleep section.

How to have a good night's sleep

Take time to relax

Practise relaxation and breathing techniques every day - diaphragmatic breathing (a deep breathing technique) can help you feel calmer and reduce the effects of stress.

Try different ways to relax such as online yoga or mindfulness. Find what works for you.

Relaxation tools to help you feel calmer

Try a digital detox

Digital devices are now part of life of student life. They help us to work remotely and feel connected. But there can be downsides. Using devices for long periods can create 'information overload' and affect the way we sleep. Social media can also add to the pressures we're feeling when we see constant posts about other people's exciting and 'perfect' lives. It can also be a platform where the mistakes we make are recorded forever AND that some people use to bully others or share inappropriate information. Try to take a digital detox an hour before you go to sleep and cut down on social media.

Positive self-talk is important

Sometimes having negative thoughts can affect our mood and the way we feel. Talk to yourself kindly and with encouragement. How would a good friend talk to you? And if the going gets tough remind yourself of positive feedback you've had and your motivations in doing the course. You could also ask other people to share their positive thoughts as well.

Be kind to your mind

Challenging Automatic Negative Thoughts

How can I find support for my mental health?

  • It's important to register with a local GP. Go to www.nhs.uk/service-search-find-a-gp to find a GP near you. Your GP is there to help you with your mental health as well as your physical health - around one third of all GP appointments are related to mental health.
  • You can also contact your university/college student wellbeing or safeguarding team to discuss support for your mental health.

University of Leeds
Leeds Beckett University
Leeds Trinity University
Leeds Arts University
Leeds Conservatoire
Leeds University of Law
Northern School of Contemporary Dance
Leeds City College
Leeds College of Building

  • The mental health, wellbeing and bereavement services featured on MindWell can be accessed by students in Leeds (subject to service criteria) including Leeds Mental Wellbeing Service which offers support and psychological therapies for common mental health problems, such as anxiety, stress, panic attacks, low moods and depression. To access some services you may need to register with a Leeds GP.
  • Support for LGBT+ communities - Yorkshire Mesmac offers sexual health services and mental health support to LGBT+ communities in Yorkshire. Call Mesmac Leeds office to discuss what services are available to support you including group and individual support - 0113 244 4209.
  • Panic attacks - MindWell has information and resources to help you better understand and manage panic attacks.
  • Bereavement - this section can help you to understand more about the grieving process and where to turn to for support, or just someone to listen, if you need to talk things through.
  • Self-harm is when someone hurts themselves, on purpose, as a way of coping with or releasing strong emotions that feel overwhelming. MindWell has tools to help manage self-harm including the Calm Harm mobile phone app, and information about support including Battle Scars, a Leeds-based charity supporting people in the UK who self-harm and their families or friends. All of Battle Scars' face-to-face services, including groups, are suspended until further notice. Their peer support Facebook group is available. They also have online groups using Zoom, including self-harm peer support groups, the Inbetweeners group for people who struggle with self harm urges but rarely act on them and a support group for parents or families of people who self-harm. There is also an online group for people in Leeds called Do Something Different, which starts in November and focuses on using creativity to help people cope, and is run with Mentally Healthy Leeds. Find out more about joining groups and also receive updates by visiting the Battle Scars website and completing their form for notifications about online groups.

What should I do if I need to self-isolate or test positive?

If you are a student in Leeds and are self-isolating or have tested positive for coronavirus, you should let your college or university know as soon as possible. Find out more on your college or university website:

University of Leeds
Leeds Beckett University
Leeds Trinity University
Leeds Arts University
Leeds Conservatoire
Leeds University of Law
Northern School of Contemporary Dance
Leeds City College
Leeds College of Building

Studentspace has some tips for looking after your wellbeing if you need to self-isolate, whilst continuing to study. You can also find lots of wellbeing tips, exercise videos, creative ideas, courses, aps and online groups to help you take care of your wellbeing, while you need to stay home in our Coronavirus Mental Health Hub.

How can I find help for an alcohol, drugs or gambling problem?

Forward Leeds is the alcohol and drug service for young people and adults across Leeds. They offer a range of different services including advice, support and interventions for young people who are concerned about their alcohol and/or drug use. You can call Forward Leeds on 0113 887 2477.

No Regrets Leeds has tips, information and links for young people (aged 18-25) on responsible drinking. See their website for useful tips such as how to help a friend who's taking drinking too far, or how to have a good night and a good next day.

Leeds Community Gambling Service (LCGS) and the NHS Northern Gambling Service (based in Leeds) offer free advice, support and treatment to individuals, families and communities affected by gambling. LCGS works in partnership with the NHS Northern Gambling Service, which provides specialist addiction therapy and recovery to people affected by gambling addiction across the North of England. Both services continue to accept referrals. As per Covid-19 restrictions, advice, support and treatment are being provided online (eg video call) and by telephone. Tel 0113 388 6466 (Monday-Friday 9am-5pm). You can access a referral form at www.gamcare.org.uk/leeds Tel: 0300 3001490 Email: referral.ngs@nhs.net.

Out of hours, you can call the National Gambling Helpline on 0808 8020 133. Open 24 hours a day.

How can I find support for domestic abuse or violence at home?

If you feel at risk of abuse, it's important to remember that there is help and support available to you. You are not alone.

Leeds Domestic Violence Service helpline is open 24 hours a day for confidential support, information and access to emergency accommodation for women and men experiencing violence, fear or abuse at home. Call 0113 246 0401. If calling is unsafe, a webchat service is now being offered from Monday-Friday between 1-3pm. If you're in immediate danger, call 999 (press 55 after the emergency number if you're in danger and unable to speak).

National Domestic Abuse Helpline - freephone, open 24/7. Tel: 0808 2000 247. Website provides guidance and support for potential victims, as well as those who are worried about friends and loved ones. Web: www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk

The government has issued information about domestic abuse and coronavirus.

How can I find support for a sexual assault?

Victim Support offers confidential emotional or practical support with any crime that you've experienced. Victim Support is independent of the police and the helpline is open 24 hours a day on 0808 168 9111.

Support After Rape & Sexual Violence Leeds (SARSVL) offers support to all women and girls in Leeds who have been affected by sexual violence, of any kind, at any time in their lives.

Their Helpline is open:

  • Tuesday from 12-2pm
  • Wednesday from 6-8pm
  • Thursday 7-9pm

You can call them on 0808 802 3344.

The text and email helpline can be contacted at any time and they will be able to respond to messages during the helpline opening hours: Text 078 600 22 880 or Email support@sarsvl.org.uk.

If you need to contact the SARSVL office, please use email using the following contacts:

See updates on the SARSVL website for more details: supportafterrapeleeds.org.uk/sarsvl-covid-19-update-office-closure/ You can also follow them on socia media: see @SARSVL on Twitter.

For emotional support you can also contact the Rape Crisis National Helpline on 0808 802 9999, open between 12-2.30pm and 7-9.30pm every day or through their web chat

Survivors West Yorkshire provides support to men and women who have been affected by sexual violence. They are currently supporting people using email and text messaging.

Basis Yorkshire has a specialist ISVA (Independent Sexual Violence Adviser) for women sex workers who have experienced sexual violence. If you're a student sex worker and have experienced sexual violence, Basis can offer specialist, non-judgemental support, whether or not you want to report to the police or other agencies. Find out more more on the Basis website.

Children who don't feel safe at home can contact ChildLine on 0800 1111 or the NSPCC 0800 800 5000..

What support is available for student sex workers in Leeds?

Basis Yorkshire offers support to sex workers and/or women who are sexually exploited including students in Leeds. Whether you work on the street or indoor, they can offer a range of support.

If you would like to speak to someone you can reach out to Basis on “livechat" (they are online for chat in the afternoon), call the office on 0113 243 0036, direct meessage on @basissexwork or get in touch via Facebook (office hours only but you can leave a message). Basis have also produced a student toolkit.

Find out more on the Basis website.

What support is available for young carers in Leeds?

If you're helping a friend or family member due to their illness, mental health or a substance misuse problem then you're an unpaid carer. Carers Leeds advice line is open as usual: Tel 0113 380 4300 on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday 9am-4.30pm and Wednesday 8am-6.30pm. You can also email the advice line advice@carersleeds.org.uk for support during these times. Carers Leeds are continuing to take referrals and are keeping in contact with carers on phone/email. All drop-ins and other face-to-face activities are cancelled until further notice.

You can find an updated booklet from Leeds Carers Partnership on the Carers Leeds website, containing government guidance for carers and lots more.

How can I talk to another student I'm worried about?

There's help for what to do in our I'm worried about someone section. If you know someone who is struggling and want to talk to them about their mental health, our TALKS technique can help:

What are the possible signs that someone is struggling with their mental health?

How can I talk to someone about their mental health?

How can I find help in a mental health crisis?

Click on I need help now from any page on MindWell to find services that can support you in a crisis. There's always someone to talk to.

You can also download our crisis sheet to find help if you, or someone you are worried about, is having a mental health emergency. Keep a copy folded in your bag, or, download it to your phone.

How to find help in a mental health crisis

How can I use MindWell to support my mental health?

Watch our 'Wellbeing information for students' video guide to find out about the information and resources available on the MindWell website.

How can I take care of my mental health during the winter months?

There's no doubt that 2020 has been a challenging year. Now that nights are getting darker and temperatures are dropping, it's important that we all take care of our mental wellbeing through the winter months. Go to our Winter Wellbeing page for some top tips and follow our campaign on Twitter @MindWellLeeds

Learn more

Rethink, mental illness charity: Coping during Covid-19, a guide to students from students

Student Minds - the UK's student mental health charity which offers information to support your mental health including the Student Space website which has been set up in response to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Students against depression - a website by students for students with lots of resources to help you cope with low moods and anxiety.

Feel better Leeds website has health tips and information for students in Leeds.

Standalone - information and advice for people who are estranged from their families, including resources for students who don't have family support.

One Space is for people aged under 25 and looking for mental health support. The website can direct you straight to what you need. It's provided by Shout, The Mix, and Young Minds working in partnership to ensure a simple way for young people to find support for their mental health. The website has links to a text-based helpline (Shout), peer support forums, phone helpline and online or phone counselling (The Mix) and mental health information and self-help resources (Young Minds).

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