Higher education students’ mental health has been a growing concern in recent years even before the COVID-19 pandemic. The stresses and restrictions associated with the pandemic have put university students at greater risk of developing mental health issues, which may significantly impair their academic success, social interactions and their future career and personal opportunities. This paper aimed to understand the mental health status of University students at an early stage in the pandemic and to investigate factors associated with higher levels of distress. An online survey including demographics, lifestyle/living situations, brief mental well-being history, questions relating to COVID-19 and standardised measures of depression, anxiety, resilience and quality of life was completed by 1173 students at one University in the North of England. We found high levels of anxiety and depression, with more than 50% experiencing levels above the clinical cut offs, and females scoring significantly higher than males. The survey also suggested relatively low levels of resilience which we attribute to restrictions and isolation which reduced the opportunities to engage in helpful coping strategies and activities rather than enduring personality characteristics. Higher levels of distress were associated with lower levels of exercising, higher levels of tobacco use, and a number of life events associated with the pandemic and lockdown, such as cancelled events, worsening in personal relationships and financial concerns. We discuss the importance of longer-term monitoring and mental health support for university students.