Nursing students spearhead clothing drive

Three students address stigma faced by psychiatric patients

Image supplied by: Lana Tse
From left to right: Nursing students Katherine Cai, Lana Tse, and Claire Wald at the drive site.

With winter around the corner, Queen’s nursing students are ensuring access to warm clothing for all.

Claire Wald, Lana Tse, and Katherine Cai, Nurs ’24, started a November clothing drive for psychiatric patients at Kingston General Hospital’s (KGH) mental health unit in collaboration with Jennifer Cook, a clinical specialist at Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC). The drive runs from Nov. 2 to 22.

“A lot of our patients don’t have belongings and clothing and things like that, so we have high requests for donations from our patients, to preserve some of their dignity while they’re in hospital,” Cook said in an interview with The Journal.

The Nursing Science Society’s (NSS) Instagram page advertised the initiative, which encourages the donation of winter coats, boots, and socks.

As part of their degree plan, nursing students collaborate with community-based agencies to develop and evaluate health promotion initiatives for vulnerable populations. Wald, Tse, and Cai’s team wanted to explore the link between clothing and mental health.

Cook explained some psychiatric patients in Kingston face housing insecurity and many rely on supportive financial incomes.

The team explained the clothing drive isn’t exclusive to the psychiatric unit, and can be accessed by anyone in the hospital who needs it.

“Clothing is a basic physiological need everyone should have. Without meeting your physiological needs—food, shelter, and clothing included—we can’t help patients prioritize their mental health,” Cai said in an interview with The Journal.

During and after their hospital stay, patients can find it difficult to be discharged or participate in outdoor activities because they don’t have the appropriate clothing. Psychiatric patients don’t wear hospital gowns, a misconception demonstrating the stigma surrounding mental health, the team explained.

“The whole goal of their treatment while being admitted is so they can be assimilated back into society, so we don’t want to create a huge disconnect that stigmatizes them by putting them in patient gowns,” Cai said.

Part of the initiative includes education on the social determinants of health and how different mental illnesses impact patients.

“I think the more [people] know, the less likely they’ll be to judge,” Wald said.

Cook encouraged the Kingston community to be compassionate as people go about their daily lives in recovery.

“Consider people as a whole person, and not just a diagnosis, and not just a set of symptoms, and be a little forgiving when you see people on the street or in society who perhaps don’t look or act the way we think they should.”

Students can donate by dropping off clothing items at the main entrance of in-patient care at Burr 4 inside of KGH before Nov. 22.


clothing drive, donations, Mental health, Nursing

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