UPEI's student union handed out more than $10,000 in student initiative grants to five campus groups who aim to improve student mental health, as part of the university's Mental Health Week. 

One of the projects is for the Aboriginal Student Group to bring elders to meet with UPEI students. The hope is non-aboriginal students will become educated about aboriginal culture, while aboriginal students who may be away from their home communities could receive support. 

"So if we can link them up with elders, and bring elders in — a whole bunch of different kind of elders — and then people can build those relationships," said Jenna Burke, an aboriginal student mentor at the Mawi'omi Centre at UPEI. 

Once student-elder relationships are formed, the hope is they could continue outside the campus.

"If they needed help or just wanted someone to talk to or do teachings or ceremonies," said Burke. 

The Aboriginal Student Group received $3,300 for the project. 

Soup for the Soul

Other projects to receive funding included a Zen Zone in the lobby of the Murphy Student Centre where students can relax during mental health week. 

Soup for the Soul — a monthly gathering where students can come together at the Chaplaincy Centre to prepare a low-cost meal — received $500. 

The student union was able to provide the funding to students through its reserve fund.

"The money is given to them because they're the ones on the ground, they're the eyes and the ears and they see what is going on on our campus," said student union president Dana Kenny. 

UPEI is doing quite well in supporting students' mental health, Kenny added, pointing out wait times for counselling are short compared to other universities.

"Mental health matters," said Kenny. Stigma around mental illness is slowly lessening, but he said there's work to be done. 

With files from Natalia Goodwin