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Mental Health Awareness Month: Coping with COVID-19 Stressors

mental health awareness month

Dr. Kacie Yost, Doctoral Intern, UNC Counseling Center
May 27, 2020

The month of May not only happens to be Mental Health Awareness month, but also represents another month of the country’s struggles with COVID-19 and a period of transition as many areas begin to open up. These past few months have been a unique time for college students, as colleges and universities closed and learning transitioned to online. Many students also faced challenges of graduation being canceled or postponed, moving back home, and isolation from social support groups. Other examples of prominent challenges student may be encountering as COVID-19 continues and the country transitions to reopening are:

  • Fear of contracting COVID-19 and worry about loved one’s health and safety
  • Change in eating and/or sleeping patterns (e.g. sleeping too much or having difficulty getting and staying asleep)
  • Increased anxiety and depressive symptoms
  • Increased feelings of helplessness and a lack of control
  • Increased use of alcohol and/or other drugs
  • Feelings of being overwhelmed
  • Increased stress

As COVID-19 continues and the number of cases and deaths increase, mental health challenges appear to be rising. According to Mental Health America (2020), one in five individuals have one or more mental health conditions and one in two individuals are at risk for developing them. These numbers suggest that it is now more important than ever for students to take extra steps to care for themselves during this challenging time.

Beneficial coping skills may include:

  • Taking breaks from media, primarily news stories, as constant news about COVID-19 may increase anxiety and depression over time.
  • Setting a daily schedule to maintain structure and consistency. For example, setting small achievable goals throughout the day and blocking out time for assignments, work, and self-care/activities you enjoy.
  • Focusing on things you can control in daily life (e.g. exercise, walks outside, organizing your space).
  • Eating balanced meals and setting a consistent sleep schedule.
  • Exercise regularly, many workout apps and YouTube videos are free and have a wide variety of exercises, but simply getting out for a walk has similar benefits.
  • Connecting with friends and family virtually (e.g. having virtual game nights) or in-person through proper social distancing practices.
  • Avoiding alcohol and other drugs.
  • Talking to others about how you are feeling (friends, family, mental health professional, etc.).

As many students navigate COVID-19 stressors, know you are not alone. If you notice changes in your mental health or existing mental health struggles becoming more severe, reach out to support people and a mental health professional for help. If you, or someone you know, is feeling anxious, depressed, overwhelmed, intense emotions of sadness, or thoughts of harming or killing yourself or others, please use these resources for help.


Call 911 for immediate suicidal or homicidal thoughts/feelings.

Contact the UNC Counseling Center for support with an on-call counselor on weekdays (Monday-Friday 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.) or a crisis counselor after hours and on weekends. Schedule an appointment by calling 970-351-2496 or emailing unccounselingcenter@unco.edu.

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

National Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741 to be connected to a professional

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233

Articles/Resources for Support

Mental Health and COVID-19 – Information and Resources

CDC - Managing Stress and Anxiety

American Psychological Association - Building Your Resilience

CNN - Take stock of your mental health during the pandemic (and what to do next)