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Coronavirus: A mental health guide for international students

Feeling anxious about coronavirus? Let this mental health guide support you at this uncertain time.

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The spread of coronavirus is affecting many parts of the world and its unpredictability is causing stress on a global scale. While this new virus will impact lots of people, this article is going to focus primarily on mental health support for international students.


With university and campus closures, cancelled flights and blocked borders, this is an uncertain situation for students living abroad for their studies. During this time, it’s of utmost importance to stay healthy, both physically and mentally.


Limit your news intake

With the proliferation of news articles, videos and statuses about coronavirus, the media may feel overwhelming at this time. The situation is changing on a daily basis, so it’s understandable if you’re confused by which advice to follow. Try to restrict your intake of coronavirus news and perhaps refer instead to official sources such as The World Health Organization and your government’s website. This information will be the most up-to-date and reliable. You could also limit your access to social media if you’re stressed or anxious about the virus as this can be another source of misinformation.



Take your mental health into your own hands and do what you feel is right for you. It’s okay to take a step back from the news for a little while as obsessing about the situation is not going to change anything nor will this make you feel better.  


You’re not alone

Self-isolation doesn’t have to mean social exclusion. Speak to friends and family over the phone or on skype. It’s really important to reach out to people during this time and it’s likely that everyone is feeling the same way. Connecting with others is a great mood lifter and can help to reduce the amount of time spent alone with your thoughts.

If you’re living in another country and feeling isolated, you can speak to counsellors over the phone for free. Talking about how you’re feeling is really important and can provide you with some reassurance and support. No matter how big or small your worries are, you can call one of the following numbers free of charge:


  • Samaritans: Call 116 123 (24/7)
  • Mind: Call 0300 123 3393 (9am-6pm GMT)


If you live in Europe, you can find more resources and information on the Mental Health Europe website. For those outside of Europe, further information can be found on Check Point.


Coping strategies

The Mental Health Foundation suggests creating a daily routine which could involve exercise, relaxation and mindfulness techniques. It’s often easier to see the negatives, particularly when reading the news, but there are also positives to this situation. Being at home means getting more rest and downtime in comparison to travelling to and from work or school. Appreciate this time and remember that this is only temporary. Although we do not know for sure how long this will affect our lives, it can be helpful to remind yourself that this is not permanent.   


The UK National Health System outlines a few ways to practice mindfulness to decrease anxiety, bringing you into the present moment and away from fixating on the future.



It’s okay to feel anxious and remember that it is a totally human response and it won’t last forever. This virus is a worldwide pandemic, but it also unifies us, no matter what your nationality, religion or race. It is vital that we look out for others and lend support where we can.


Treat yourself

Do little things every day to care of yourself (besides those already mentioned!). This could be a relaxing bath, a walk, cooking a meal, watching your favourite film. Each of these activities can be hugely comforting and will help take your mind off your worries.


Speak to someone at the university

If your university has stopped face-to-face lectures, you might be feeling stressed about your exams or upcoming deadlines. As we are all so digitally connected, many universities are now turning to online teaching. If you’re unsure about any of these arrangements, you should speak to someone at the university such as your course convener/lecturer and administration to ask specific questions.



For more information about how coronavirus is affecting international education, please visit the UKCISA website where you can find a helpline for any further queries.

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