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How to take care of your mental health during COVID-19 and the return to school

We recognize that this is a difficult situation and that students have many questions related to COVID-19, the impact for themselves, for schools and their friends. We also recognize that information changes frequently. What we know for sure is that you don’t need to go through this alone, our relationships are important, we are in this together.

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health or substance use emergency, call 9-1-1 or go to the emergency room of your local hospital.  Even in these unusual times, it is important to get the immediate help that you need.  There are people ready and available to help.

Note: If you visit an emergency room, you should be prepared to participate in “active screening” for COVID-19 as part of a standard protocol at this time.  You may also be asked to wear a mask.  This is all normal procedure at this time and does not mean that you or your child is more vulnerable to the virus.  You just may want to be prepared that the emergency room experience may look somewhat different at the moment.  Try to stay calm knowing that this is just standard practice and an example of how caring professionals are providing support.

If you are not sure if it is an emergency, or just need to talk through the situation, consider reaching out to Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000, or the distress line or mobile crisis team in your area.

Children and teens can speak with a counsellor 24/7 by calling Kids Help Phone

Youth-focused mental health resources hub

We’ve partnered with Jack.org and Kids Help Phone to create an online hub of COVID-19 youth-focused mental health resources to help you take care of yourself and others.

Questions and answers

We’ve got you. Here are some everyday mental health strategies we think could really help. If you have other ideas, let us know.

  • Focus on healthy habits and routines. Some of the things we do for our physical health, like getting enough sleep, eating well, exercising and minimizing screen time, are also good for our mental health.
  • Do things you enjoy as much as you can. Even if you aren’t leaving your house much, perhaps there’s a hobby you used to really like that you could try again. (p.s. what makes you happy may not be what others find fun, and that’s okay!).
  • Notice the good things. It’s easy to get caught up in the negatives that happen in life. Instead, look for the positives each day, even in situations that might seem bad—like a pandemic. For example, there are a lot of stories about people helping neighbours and spreading positive messages.
  • Stay connected. Even with physical distancing, you can still maintain social connection. Chat with your family members. Call a friend or video chat. You could try a group video chat with multiple friends. Remember, your friends and family are in a similar situation as you so you can lean on each other.

Check out this tip sheet for ideas on small actions you can do to take care of yourself.

Check out these exercises to help manage anxiety during uncertain times.

These questions can help you decide whether to ask for help.

  • Is how I’m thinking, feeling, or acting different for me? A change from how I used to be?
  • Are my thoughts, emotions or actions affecting my everyday life negatively?
  • Have I been feeling this way for some time, like more than a week?
  • Am I dealing with my problems in unhealthy ways?
  • Am I carrying too much by myself?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, it is probably time to connect with an adult who can help. Reaching out can prevent problems from getting worse.

For help on how to reach out and start the conversation, check out this tip sheet.

Still not sure?

If you’re ever wondering if you might need help with your mental health, you can always speak to a trusted adult like a teacher, parent/guardian, relative, faith leader, Elder, coach, etc.

You can also call Kids Help Phone and speak to a trained counselor to see if getting more help might be a good idea. Speak with a counsellor 24/7 by calling Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868 or texting CONNECT to 686868.

Children’s Mental Health Ontario agencies are open and providing support to children and youth virtually and by phone. No physician referral is required and no OHIP card is necessary to access services. Find a Children’s Mental Health Centre in your community.

Thoughts of suicide

Ask for help if you are having thoughts of suicide or harming yourself. There is always hope, and there are people ready and wanting to help. Tell a caring adult that you need help. If you need immediate assistance, here are some options:

  • Call 911
  • Speak with a counsellor 24/7 by calling Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868 or texting CONNECT to 686868

There are things you can do to listen and support when a friend is experiencing problems with their mental health, but it’s really important that you know that you don’t have to do this alone.

Just like with your own mental health, changes in your friend’s behaviour, thoughts and emotions that seem to be intense or lasting a long time can be signs that they need some more support.

When you notice or find out that friend is struggling with a mental health problem, we like the Golden Rules from Bethere.org.

They’re a good guide for how to talk to a friend you’re concerned about.

What to do if you’re concerned

If your friend has said something that makes you worry about their safety or the safety of other people, it’s important that you talk to someone, even if your friend has asked you not to.

Here are some options:

  • If you think there’s an immediate safety risk, call 9-1-1.
  • Speak to a parent, teacher or another trusted adult who will guide you on how to take action.

If your friend is saying they want help getting support, suggest some options:

  • Talk to a parent or guardian or another adult they trust.
  • Speak with a counsellor 24/7 by calling Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868 or texting CONNECT to 686868.
  • Children’s Mental Health Ontario agencies are open and providing support to children and youth virtually and by phone. No physician referral is required and no OHIP card is necessary to access services. Find a Children’s Mental Health Centre in your community.
  • Check out this list of other services.

You might also be interested in:

Youth-focused mental health resources hub
An online collection of resources for youth from Jack.org, Kids Help Phone and School Mental Health Ontario

Reaching out student help seeking resource

Reaching Out – Offering different ways to start the conversation

Additional resources

Youth-focused mental health resources hub
An online hub of COVID-19 youth-focused mental health resources from Jack.org, Kids Help Phone and School Mental Health Ontario

Kids Help Phone
Access to 24/7 counselling by phone or text, and find information on different mental health topics

The Hope for Wellness Help Line
Mental health counselling and crisis intervention to all Indigenous peoples across Canada

Children’s Mental Health Ontario
Children’s Mental Health Ontario agencies are open and providing support to children and youth virtually and by phone. No physician referral is required and no OHIP card is necessary to access services. Find a Children’s Mental Health Centre in your community.

Be There by Jack.org
Find guidance on how to be there for a friend who may be struggling with their mental health

Ministry of Education – Learn at home
Find supplementary resources for elementary and secondary students to practice math and literacy skills and learn at home

Public Health Agency of Canada
Risk level for Canadians, current situation, travel advisories

World Health Organization
Technical documents, questions and answers