Classically Inclined

July 22, 2021

Some suggestions for an office mental health first aid kit

Filed under: Teaching — lizgloyn @ 5:21 pm
Tags: , ,

A few days ago on Twitter, I asked what people would want to have in their offices as a mental health first aid kit – or, to put it another way, what people would have wanted their lecturers to have available in their offices if things got just that bit too much. There were so many great suggestions that I thought it would be a good idea to collate them all in one place so other people can get some inspiration!

What I’m envisaging here is some kind of box or basket, within easy reach of people who come into the office; I found myself thinking that you would probably want to split it into sections marked ‘please take’ and ‘please use’, as you would probably not want some of these things to go walkabout, but others would be there precisely for people to use.

Two quick caveats. First, this is in no way meant to substitute for properly funded and resourced mental health care services at universities, or to put pressure on academic staff to provide sole care for these issues. That said, we are often the first point of contact, either as lecturers or personal tutors, and being prepared for making that first encounter as supportive and positive as possible can’t hurt. Second, this is a comprehensive list of all the suggestions made in response to my thread, and does not imply that any member of staff should feel obliged to provide every single one of these items. This goes double for precarious colleagues, particularly given the financial costs associated with making sure you are prepared in this way. You know your own students best; the point of this post is to provide some ideas that might resonate with you, and for people to pick and choose what works best for their individual context.

With that out of the way, here we go…

Practical things

  • Tampons and pads
  • Blister plasters
  • Extra face masks
  • Hand sanitizer or wipes
  • Lavender or other soothing things to smell
  • Essential oil roll-ons for wrists
  • Rescue remedy
  • Tissues, both in a box and in take-away packs
  • A mirror, for tidying up after tears
  • Sunglasses
  • Ear plugs

Several people mentioned painkillers; I’ve not included these as I know that there is some complicated legal stuff around supplying painkillers to students or colleagues, and so I am erring on the side of caution by not recommending that these items are formally included in a kit.

Food and drink

  • Granola or cereal bars
  • Rice crisps
  • Chocolate
  • Trail mix
  • Lollipops
  • Long-lasting fruit like apples
  • Mini-packs of dried fruit
  • Vegan lollies or biscuits
  • Fruit chews
  • Nice biscuits
  • Glucose tablets
  • Calming herbal tea bags
  • Hot chocolate
  • Coffee
  • A kettle and spare mugs
  • Water and spare glasses
  • Mini water bottles

Comfort items

  • Blanket
  • Pillow or cushion
  • Comfy chair
  • A hot water bottle
  • Fidget toys
  • A teddy or cuddly toy
  • A bubble pop toy
  • A squeezy stress toy or stress ball
  • Adult colouring book and felt tip pens
  • Happy/cheerful stickers
  • Affirmation cards
  • Mindfulness cards
  • Gratitude cards
  • Postcards
  • Mini-pots of bubble bath
  • Sample or mini size lip balm and moisturiser
  • A sleep mask and a sign saying “I need a bit of quiet” if you have an appropriate space for students to get some peace

Resources

Other helpful things

People made various suggestions about other useful but intangible things people might offer as support, which I am listing here.

  • Offer to write a referral to the student to Counselling directly, copying them in
  • Offer useful reminders that studying is hard, but they have got this far, and have achieved huge amounts
  • Reminders that rest is essential
  • A supportive, non-judgemental ear
  • Cultivate relationships with the support staff who know people, to make accessing support easier

Thank you!

With thanks for suggestions to Sara Barker, Stephanie Lawton, Emma Sheppard, Wheeled Classicist, Kate Ferry-Swainson, Sarah Martin, Ellie Mackin Roberts, Ruth Cruickshank, Helen Lovatt, Sarah Porter, Alice Rae, Kelli Conley, Gabe Moshenska, Cora Beth Knowles, Isabella Streffen, Aven McMaster, Sophie Agrell, Elspeth, Penny Goodman, Clare Clarke, Stephe Harrop, Jane Draycott, Alexandra, Joy Evans, Heather Self, A, Magdalena Öhrman, Alice Little, Miriam. Marchella Ward and the Royal Holloway Library! Apologies to anyone I’ve missed – it was a busy thread. I gloss over the fact that the vast majority of people who joined in with this discussion are women or non-binary, and what that might say about the dynamics of care in academia.

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