Quilts for mental health: Is it the spirit of why not?

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As mental health concerns rise at post-secondary institutions, so do the number of proposed solutions to this crisis.&nbsp;</p>

One of the innovative solutions at the University of Waterloo has been to distribute quilts through UW mental health services, as described in the Imprint article “A different kind of comfort.” 

I run a social startup where I develop mental health first aid kits for students, and it is exciting to hear about other tangible mental health solutions on campus. I had researched the advantages quilts may hold for students, yet I have concluded with differing opinions.

These quilts aim to provide physical comfort for the recipients and also remind them of the available services. 

Blankets have indeed been shown to have a therapeutic influence on mental health patients, but only blankets that weigh approximately 30 lbs. Weighted blankets and vests are recognized as therapeutic by occupational therapists using deep pressure touch stimulation, but there is no significant mention of lighter blankets such as quilts in therapy.

Quilts also have an effect in kickstarting the mental health discussion, receiving attention by many prominent mental health organizations including the Canadian Mental Health Association. The difference in this case is that the quilts are not used as therapeutic tools but as displays of art to inspire mental health dialogue. 

Quilting as an activity on its own is popular for building communities of support and even therapy, but the tangible quilt itself does not go beyond stimulating the mental health dialogue with imagery. 

Perhaps the quilt makers would be more interested in placing their thoughtful quilts in counsellors’ offices or public places as anti-stigma pieces rather than giving them to recipients for unreliable physical comfort.

Lastly, if the quilts were to be distributed through counselling services for students, the problem of accessibility may arise. There are only three blankets in the possession of UW mental health services, and each counsellor may see up to five students a day with various needs. 

I predict a shortage of supply as making a quilt can be time consuming and not every student expressing the need for a quilt may receive one in a timely manner.  

Although the program is funded by the Mennonite community and there is no mention of using UW Health Services funds, the program’s resources should be directed as community art due to their greater potential as an effective mental health discussion tool, and should be viewed by more than one recipient.

 

Tina Chan

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4b Applied Health Sciences

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