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A student in a residence room
March 13, 2020
4 mins read

How to get and give support during the COVID-19 outbreak

Right now, the coronavirus—COVID-19—is top of mind; it’s discussed in the news, on social media, and on campus. How it will continue to impact the UBC community is also an ongoing question.

During this challenging and uncertain time, it’s normal to feel stressed, overwhelmed, or worried for your own health, as well as that of your family and friends. I 100% relate.

UBC’s administration is currently taking precautions based on direction from the BC Provincial Government. For instance, events with more than 250 students have been cancelled including Storm the Wall, and starting Monday, March 16classes are transitioning online for the remainder of the term. 

While the university continues to run, here are some ways you can take care of yourself—and help others do the same.

1. Stay informed by checking accurate sources

Over the past several days, I’ve noticed that many rumours have sprung up on Facebook group chats and the UBC subreddit, with posters claiming without evidence that there are confirmed COVID-19 cases on campus. 

As of March 13, there is no verifiable news of any confirmed cases of the virus among the UBC community.

So take what you see on social media with a grain of salt—particularly on Reddit, when posts (or memes) are either from throwaway users with a history of less than a few days, or from individuals who cannot validate their claims when contacted. (The Reddit moderators have removed over a hundred such posts and comments.) Same goes for Facebook group chats.
Instead, stay informed by regularly checking these official sources:

Visiting the links above daily will help you stay up to date and vigilant. However, avoid endlessly watching the news, following social media, or reading about the outbreak. Spending too much time on these activities may heighten your concerns. Instead, set a reasonable limit and then, if you feel up to it and have the time, do things that are important to you and that you enjoy.

How you can support others: 

  • Avoid sharing information that you don’t know the original source for—this will help prevent the spread of fear-mongering rumours
  • Try to educate others on what is happening, and clarify information when you can
  • Don’t post memes or comments that can come across as hurtful or add to the anxiety
  • Report content that you find disrespectful and/or untrue

2. Express how you’re feeling

Talk to supportive people you know, and be open about how you’re feeling. Talking about your fears can help you process your thoughts and emotions.

How you can support others: 

  • Check in with them to see how they’re feeling and if they want to talk
  • Listen and respond empathetically, even if you may have different views
  • Avoid joking about the virus and making memes out of it—it really isn’t a laughing matter

3. Follow all of the recommendations for staying healthy

These include:

  • Washing your hands regularly
  • Staying home when you are sick
  • Reducing physical contact with others 
  • Avoiding touching your face
  • Sneezing and coughing into your upper sleeve
  • Avoiding large crowds and events

Other ways to boost your physical health:

How you can support others: 

  • Tell them about these steps
  • Give perspective to those who plan on holding large events
  • Remind people about preventative measures if you observe unhygienic habits, such as someone coughing without covering their mouth 

4. Find ways to manage your stress level, including reaching out for support

Use coping strategies that have worked for you in the past, or get ideas for new strategies to try.

You can also check out specific strategies for dealing with this world health event as recommended by:

If you find that your stress, worry, or other emotions are starting to affect your ability to study, sleep, or interact with others, reaching out for professional support can help. 

Talking to a mental health professional, even in a one-time conversation, can help you identify ways to manage your stress or other emotions. 

Here are some options for support:

Empower Me

Empower Me provides confidential counselling 24/7, and it’s free for all UBC students. 

They can help with anything you're concerned about, and you can choose to meet with a counsellor in person, or by phone, video chat, or e-counselling.

The best way to access Empower Me for the first time is to call their toll-free phone number: 1-844-741-6389.

The “Health and Wellbeing” page on the Student Services website

This page contains information about how to access mental health support on and off campus. 

How you can support others: 

  • Refer them to these resources
  • Share the strategies that have worked for you  

Staying positive can feel challenging during this time, but remember that we’re all in this together—you can get support, and share it with those around you.

Header photo credit: Hover Collective / UBC Brand & Marketing