Tina ChanWe interviewed Tina Chan to see what drives her to pursue her venture, PASS Kit:

What’s your why?

Like many students, I experienced a lot of stress during my first couple years of university. I saw a lot of my peers drop out of school altogether because of stress. That’s something I think just shouldn’t happen. If you have the ability and opportunity to be in higher education, stress should not be a barrier.

There are many mental health supports for students in universities, but there are also a number of barriers. Unfortunately, there can be long wait times for counselling and difficulties in coordinating appointments with student schedules. In my own case, I found I had long wait times between appointments. Many students don’t feel comfortable using phone hotlines when they are struggling with anxiety.

I wanted to come up with a way to help students cope better with stress themselves, as well as encouraging them to talk about mental health.

What’s the problem you are solving?  

I am currently in my fourth term at St. Paul's GreenHouse, after recently graduating from Health Studies. Last year, I developed what I call a PASS (Panic, Anxiety & Stress Support) Kit, which contains earplugs, a sleeping mask, chewing gum, a squeezable stress toy, and flash cards with generic professional advice for managing stress. Last summer, I worked on validating the data that demonstrates the value of each element in the kit in helping students reduce stress or become calm in the face of a looming panic attack.

In December 2015, I piloted a project where all of the students in a particular UWaterloo residence received a PASS Kit. Because everyone in residence got a kit, it opened up an opportunity for dialogue about mental health and was a tangible acknowledgement that stress management is a real issue for many people.

This term, I’m in the process of scaling up our operations so that we can make our kits available at various educational institutions. I also have a co-founder now. We’ve had significant demand for the kit but we don’t have a good production model yet. Together with my co-founder and four volunteers, I’m working on figuring out supply chain logistics and market research. We need to figure out a quick way to make the kits, store and ship inventory.

What keeps you up at night? 

To be honest (and this is great for someone working on stress management) nothing is keeping me up at night. I really want to get our production process down so we can satisfy orders within a week or two instead of a month. We are increasingly hearing from workplaces that are interested in supplying our kits to their employees and this is an area we are exploring. We are also thinking about creating an online community, adding a service side to our business.

My hope is that the PASS Kit will help university students struggling with panic, anxiety, and stress to be able to ground themselves in reality and to recognize what situation really is, that it is controllable and manageable – and that they can be okay in any situation.

- by Susan Fish



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