Tina Chan, GI resident and Masters of Science candidate in the School of Public Health and Health Systems, was a speaker at this year's TEDxUW conference. She took the stage to share the story of how she came to develop the Panic Anxiety Stress Support (PASS) kit.
Chan developed the PASS kit during her undergrad. In the talk, she disclosed that she was dealing with her own mental health struggles because of the pressures of university life - an experience that is all too common for students. This led to her discovery that resources for those with mental health symptoms were unusable and intimidating.
Students who struggle with depression, anxiety, or stress need helpful, accessible ongoing supports, regardless of whether or not they have a diagnosis:
I recovered from illness through therapy, medication, and years of practice, but you don’t need a diagnosed disorder to experience symptoms of anxiety or depression, like how you don’t need the flu to have a sore throat.
After conducting research and receiving advice from counselors, social workers, and mental health educators, Chan developed the PASS kit. It's a first-aid kit equipped with earplugs, a blindfold, a squeeze-toy, gum, and mindfulness cards. Each item was selected or designed to model evidence-based approaches to treating symptoms. The gum, for example, relieves muscle tension caused by anxiety. *symptom of anxiety, not necessarily caused by
The University of Waterloo provided a PASS kit to every incoming frosh student in 2018. By doing so, the university equipped students with some tools for easing stress symptoms. It also signalled to the students that the university cares, that they are not alone, and that suffering from mental illness is a right of passage.
Groups such as students entering the new world of university [see] insomnia and excessive worry to be a natural part of academia -which isn’t true.
Chan's purpose for sharing her story about the PASS kit was to inspire the audience to think about how innovation can be used to disrupt the pervasiveness of mental health issues in society. Her PASS kit isn't the be-all, end-all solution. It's a band-aid to give to people so that they have a temporary solution until they can get the psychological help they need.