Two nursing students are hoping to collect enough winter coats so that mental health patients, who are often discharged without much more than the clothes they are wearing, have some basic protection from the cold.

Brooklyn Brown and Rachel Chapman are doing practicums on the mental health unit at the Regina General Hospital.

They learned of the need when it came time to discharge a patient who arrived when the weather was warmer.

rachel chapman

Rachel Chapman is one of the nursing students who launched the clothing drive. (CBC)

The patient did not have any outside support and the nursing students looked to ensure she had a warm parka. They were directed to a small closet that had just one coat.

"Brook and I just realized that this is not acceptable," Chapman told CBC News. "We need to have more available for these people. And so before we even left the room, we were like 'We need to do something. We need to start this.'"

"It's just amazing," Brown added. "I go home and I have so many clothes in my closet to choose from and then we have people who come in who don't have anything. It's sad."

Chapman and Brown launched a clothing drive Nov. 16 and will accept donations to the end of December.

Details on their initiative can be found online, at understandus.ca

Already, Chapman said, they have amassed several bags of clothes to sort and make available to the hospital.


 

On the website understandus.ca Rachel Chapman wrote about a patient who was about to be discharged and how she and Brooklyn Brown were inspired to launch the clothing drive:

"She was homeless, as well as mentally ill with an addiction. Her biggest concern was, it was going to be cold soon and she was without a permanent residence and without family support.

This woman literally had nothing but the clothes on her back. I reached out to another nurse on the unit and asked what our options were to help this person and he told me there is a room in the day hospital for mental health outpatients that has clothing specifically for this purpose and I could take her down there to look.  The word "room" was extremely inaccurate ....[and we] walked into a converted janitors closet.

The term slim pickins' comes to mind. She managed to find the last real warm winter coat, and only two shirts that fit her, one being a sleeveless tank top.

As Brook and I stood in the room we both thought, "This can't be all that there is?"

I stood there looking at this girl my age and thought of all the things I had readily available to me. I have never known what is it like to go to sleep cold, scared and unsure of where my next meal would come from; this was her life.

And so the thought of a clothing drive was born."

- Rachel Chapman, nursing student

With files from CBC's Iryn Tushabe