UPEISU pilot project offers mental-health supports to students

Students at UPEI are trying out a new online tool to help with everything from nutrition to life coaching to mental health support — and now have round the clock access to professional help.

'If you're in a crisis, there's an option to call a counsellor'

The Aspiria app includes tips to keep students healthy, and access to immediate counselling services by phone. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC)

Students at the University of Prince Edward Island are trying out a new online tool to help with everything from nutrition to life-coaching to mental-health support — and now have round-the-clock access to professional help.

The student assistance program, called Aspiria, can be accessed from a computer or mobile app.

One of the focal points of the app is mental-health support — and the ability to connect with someone who can help right away.

Sarah MacEachern, vice-president of student life with the UPEI Student Union, hopes the service helps better support students when it comes to their mental health. (Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC)

"If you're in a crisis, there's an option to call a counsellor," said Sarah MacEachern, vice-president of student life with the UPEI Student Union (UPEISU).

"If you are not in crisis but still need some support there are different options, you can request to book an appointment or email a counsellor."

Students can access the website or mobile app 24 hours a day, seven days a week. MacEachern said that many students struggle with their mental health, and sometimes, it can take weeks to schedule an appointment with a counsellor on campus.

'Short-term solution'

"Students aren't always getting the resources they need," said MacEachern. "So this is kinda to battle that. And though it's only a short-term solution it can ease some of those wait-lists and it can help students who need immediate assistance."

This year, the UPEISU is covering the cost of the service to give students a chance to try it and see how useful it is.

A referendum on whether or not to keep Aspiria, which would amount to an additional $4.20 per student in annual fees, is planned for the spring.

Officials with Holland College say the Aspiria service has been available to students there for several years already.

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About the Author

Jessica Doria-Brown

Videojournalist

Jessica Doria-Brown is a videojournalist with CBC in P.E.I. Originally from Toronto, Jessica has worked for CBC in Newfoundland & Labrador, New Brunswick, and Ontario.