Have Kitbag, will travel
27 Apr 2021
Amid concerns about a mental health crisis worsened by the pandemic, Dr Margaret Hannah introduces the concept of 'Kitbag’, a set of resources developed by professionals and now being used in schools to help ease stress and distress
For many years, International Futures Forum (IFF) has been concerned about the psycho-social environment in which children and young people grow up. In the 21st century, we inhabit a world of bewildering complexity. Different media channels and information streams clamour for our attention. Rapid change and uncertainty add to our confusion, making it harder to take in and make sense of the world.
The Covid-19 pandemic has accentuated this, putting huge pressures on families, schools, communities and organisations. Its mental health impacts (click here to learn more) are a growing concern in the UK (click here to learn more) and across the globe.
IFF recognises there will never be enough professional psychologists, counsellors or therapists to meet the rising need for support to address this crisis and deal effectively with the levels of mental distress experienced by children, families and communities.
Instead, IFF conceived the concept of Kitbag (click here to learn more).
Developed by mental health professionals working alongside graphic and textile designers, Kitbag creates an environment which feels safe, comforting and calming. The resource comes in a rolled cloth bag and contains a range of cards, a talking stick, sand timers, finger puppets, scented oil, a story to help with relaxation and music for downloading to accompany this. These multi-sensory elements encourage children and their carers to become calm, share how they feel, build trusting relationships and develop confidence in themselves.
Use of Kitbag in school settings, in family support, youth and social work is spreading in Scotland (click here to learn more) and to other parts of the UK. Teachers and pupil support staff notice how it helps children be kind to each other. It also helps staff to defuse difficult situations. As Megan Lindsay, Principal Teacher at Methilhill Primary School, has told us:
“Kitbag has increased our children's readiness to learn, enabled them to share their feelings in their own words and supported their ability to self-regulate.”
High Schools are also interested in Kitbag, often using it with young people who are going through emotional difficulties. Linda Jeffrey, Principal Teacher of Enhanced Support at Bell Baxter High School, has said:
“Kitbag allows me to connect to young people who are struggling to manage or express their emotions. It provides moments of peace and reflection in a busy, challenging world.”
Children 1st, who work with many stressed families across Scotland, have trained its staff to use Kitbag and during lockdown, provided families with the pocket version of Kitbag (mini-Kitbag) to use within the household. Children 1st also use Kitbag in their team meetings as it helps them stay human, connected and supportive of each other.
There is now an online version of Kitbag which has been readily taken up by schools who use it both in remote teaching and classroom settings. A growing number of local authorities are taking up a corporate subscription for all their staff to use.
Through regular use of Kitbag, there is a generation growing up in Scotland with the listening, empathy and emotional skills to be good friends, partners and psychologically competent citizens of the future.
Dr Margaret Hannah is Director of Health Programmes for International Futures Forum (IFF). She has a background in medicine, specialising in public health and worked for over 20 years in that field, mostly in Fife, Scotland.
Margaret is also a social entrepreneur, working with IFF to develop an educational and wellbeing resource called Kitbag. This is used in schools, with young people and in family support agencies. She left the health service in 2018 to work with IFF full-time but since early 2020 has contributed in various ways to the Covid-19 pandemic response.