Mental Health First Aid Kits Have the Power to Help Students

The University of Waterloo’s PASS Kit Should be Implemented at KPU

(Kristen Frier)

Tina Chan, a first year student at the University of Waterloo, has developed a mental illness first aid kit called the Panic, Anxiety, and Stress Support (PASS) Kit to help students who experience serious mental health issues while on campus.

According to a Maclean’s article written about it, Chan felt that the kit—which includes earplugs, sleeping masks, gum, a stress ball, and flash cards which display symptoms of stress and suggest healthy coping mechanisms—would be more helpful than pamphlets and crisis lines. The flash cards are based on cognitive behavioural therapy, which allows students to complete simple, practical exercises intended to help them relax.

Personally, I think this is a fantastic idea that more schools should adopt. I was very relieved to know that the University of Waterloo was supportive of Chan’s ideas, and that it worked with her to offer the PASS Kits to students. Faculties around the school ordered them for first year students, which is a good way to show that they care want to provide support to those who are struggling. I hope that soon these kits reach second, third, and fourth-year students as well.

Having struggled with anxiety since childhood, I know I would benefit from using the PASS kits. I would love to have resources on-hand that help me stray away from the negative coping mechanisms I’ve used before, which could range from nail biting to self harm.

In the Maclean’s article, Chan also mentions a student who used the kit instead of resorting to her eating disorder behaviours, which is something that also hits home for me, as I have dealt with an eating disorder as well. I would love to use this kit as a healthy way to cope and to help replace those behaviours.

I know I am not alone, and that many other people would benefit from using these kits both on and off campus. I’ve met so many people who suffer from anxiety and other mental illnesses who I believe would welcome these kits into their lives.

Students can purchase the kits for themselves and can carry them around in their backpacks and purses. I would even go so far as to say that a kit like this should be mandatory to have in each classroom, and that it can be useful for all students, from elementary school all the way up to post-secondary. They could be added to school supply lists.

Although younger students could be distracted by some items in the kit, such as the stress ball, I see no problem with keeping a PASS Kit or two in the classroom along with the standard first aid kit. This will not only help struggling students of all ages, but will bring awareness to mental illness and make it easier to talk about.

It’s a step in the right direction to equate mental health first aid kits with physical health ones. Though this is not a cure for anxiety or any mental illnesses, I believe that anything that can provide a healthy way to cope should be introduced into our everyday lives.

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