The Duchess of Cambridge encouraged students to keep playing sport to support their mental health as they face online lectures and gathering restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Kate, 38, visited students at the University of Derby on Tuesday to speak to them about how starting or continuing their courses during the pandemic had affected their mental health.
Her visit came ahead of World Mental Health Day which will be marked on Saturday, 10 October.
She arrived wearing a colourful mask to adhere to the rules for staff and students on campus. Posting about the visit online, one student joked: “The Duchess of Cambridge made me late for my lecture.”
Kate wore a grey jumper with black trousers and a checked coat for the visit with a gold necklace that had a special meaning.
The personalised piece has three pendants, bearing the first initial of each of her children.
She first spoke to a group of representatives from Student Minds about whether there had been an “increase in awareness” among students when it came to help for mental health, and whether it was “integrated” into their studies.
She also spoke to students about how their studying had been impacted by the restrictions on gatherings.
Husna Hanif and Laura Oliver, both 18, told her about how they kept busy during lockdown but admitted they’d found it hard not to see friends.
Kate said it was “great to hear” there was “so much support” for them on campus.
She heard about the Student Minds’ Student Space initiative which offers help and advice over phone or text.
The 24/7 text service is using trained volunteers delivered in partnership with Shout, the text-based support service which the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge set up through the Royal Foundation.
Kate also heard about the ‘buddy’ system student nurses have implemented to provide them with peer support during difficult placements.
Kate’s visit ended with her watching some of the women football players as they played on the university’s 4G pitch. As she huddled under an umbrella she heard from students about how important sport was to their mental wellbeing.
She added: “Particularly when it’s outdoors as it hasn’t got any restrictions to it.”
University students have had a difficult start to the term, with thousands having to self-isolate in their halls after COVID outbreaks at some campuses.
More than 50 universities have confirmed cases of coronavirus, with students isolating at places including Manchester Metropolitan University, Northumbria University, and Glasgow University.
Universities UK has published a checklist to help institutions ensure their students have everything they need, including access to food, laundry services, cleaning materials, bin bags, tissues and toilet rolls.
The National Union of Students (NUS) has warned about people’s mental health if they are ‘trapped in halls” and Prime Minister Boris Johnson has promised he will get students home for Christmas.
Some may have to self-isolate when they get back to their family homes.
Kate went to university in Scotland, where she read History of Art at St Andrew’s.
It’s where she met her husband Prince William, who was on the same course but switched to geography.
Kate is credited with persuading him to stay at university when he wasn’t enjoying it after the first year.
They graduated in 2005.