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Taking a PASS on our anxieties

Yodahet Tekle and Emily McClement of the WCS Woolwich Youth Centre will help kids put together PASS (Panic, Anxiety and Street Support) kits. [Veronica Reiner / The Observer]

Woolwich Community Services newest endeavour will help both children and parents in the community deal with anxiety.

Sidney Bater, a registered clinical social worker and psychotherapist at the Woolwich Community Health Centre, will deliver informational sessions weekly starting November 13. These meetings are aimed at parents and caregivers whose children struggle with anxiety.

“Anxiety is currently one of the fastest-growing mental health challenges right now,” said Tina Reed, coordinator of community support at WCS. “People can go to just one, but it is set up to attend all six sessions – they each build off of each other.”

Selected topics include exploring the ‘message’ of anxiety, understanding the intersection of the physical and emotional aspects of anxiety, exploring family history, as well as unspoken beliefs about anxiety and its causes, and personality characteristics, and these might affect the experience of anxiety.

There will be a social, friendly tone, with participants given the opportunity to share their experiences and ideas, and exchange references and tips to help one another out.

These sessions will take place every Wednesday from November 13 to December 11, 6:30-8:30 p.m. The sessions were made possible through a Lyle S. Hallman Foundation grant and are part of the Rural Child Wellbeing project launched in January.

Sessions are completely free, but registration is tight due to space limitations. Anyone interested can register by calling 519-664-3794.

Another element that WCS is introducing to battle anxiety is PASS (Panic, Anxiety and Stress Support) kits, designed to help someone who is experiencing a panic attack.

“We do see it as being very useful for kids to have something so small that they can take everywhere. … It’s good that it’s not identifiable, no one would know it’s for stress and anxiety,” said Yodahet Tekle, coordinator at the youth centre.

A pack of gum, a stress ball, ear plugs to block out sound, and eye masks to block out light are all included in the kits. There are also steps written on cards for how to manage anxiety.

For example, there is a grounding exercise listed that challenges readers to name five things they can see, four things they can feel, three things they can hear, two things they can smell, and one good thing about them.

“It’s little pieces of support through a panic or anxiety attack so that they can focus on the here and now with the kits,” said Reed.

Youth will put together these kits at future meetings, but the exact dates have yet to be announced. If anyone is interested in attending a kit put together, they can contact the Woolwich Youth Centre at 519-669-3539.

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