By: Dan Timen and Nathan Hood
The Mental Health Initiatives Fund, launched by the Student Union to support mental health initiatives at UPEI, has sparked debate within the SU as some student leaders attempt to determine its future – while others charge decisions are being made without Council consultation.
The fund was first announced in 2015 by then-President Lucas MacArthur. In a UPEI press release, he said the fund would “allow UPEI students to develop new and strengthen existing mental health initiatives at UPEI,” adding that its purpose was “to encourage students to plan, execute, and raise awareness to address issues of mental health at UPEI.”
No Confirmed Plans for Future Funding
In a written response to The Cadre, Vice President Finance Will McGuigan said the fund was not intended to last multiple years.
“The original thought was that [the initial $20,000 investment] would last one year but has since lasted 3-4 years,” he said.
McGuigan said the SU, after consulting with Student Affairs and reviewing the projects it had previously funded, “came to the realization that this money could be better spent to to help student [sic] dealing with mental health.” McGuigan did not elaborate on how this spending would differ from previous spending.
McGuigan could not confirm if the SU had any immediate plans to continue investing into the fund.
SU Director of Communications Fallon Mawhinney said the fund has approximately $4,000 remaining and added that “although the fund is still open for submissions, the UPEISU would like to use the limited remaining funds to create an initiative that will have a more sustained and long-lasting impact at UPEI.”
The Mental Health Initiatives Fund is not included on the SU website’s list of services and no public call for submissions has been made.
Mental Health Advocates Disappointed
Amy Rix, the SU’s Health & Wellness Representative, said she was surprised to learn in October that the fund had supposedly been eliminated.
“When we were at Council retreat… I asked [McGuigan] about it,” she said, “and [McGuigan] said ‘Yeah, we just decided to scrap it.’”
“I don’t know if this was their idea, but my impression was they didn’t want to do more mental health awareness events and stuff like that,” she said. “They were like ‘well, what does that really do?’”
Grace Wedlake is the co-president of the UPEI Jack.Org chapter, a group that works to address mental health stigmas and support students who struggle with mental health, and a senate representation on Council. She suggested that uncertainty around the future of the fund stemmed from questions about the initiatives it was supporting but did not believe this was the fault of the fund.
“Although I am aware that the execs raised concerns about how this money was allocated in the past to certain initiatives they did not deem to meet the purpose of “mental health initiatives,” I do not think this was a problem with the funds themselves,” Wedlake explained.
“Instead, reconsiderations could have been made for the types of initiatives they would like to fund in future,” she added.
Wedlake also lamented the lack of funding opportunities for mental health initiatives on campus.
“Currently on this campus, there are minimal funding opportunities for mental health initiatives,” she said. “While money isn’t everything, it is something, and it’s incredibly difficult to run events or engage students without financial resources.”
Issue Not Discussed at Council
Rix said that while there has not been a discussion about the fund at Council, she affirms there should have been before any decisions were made.
“[Discontinuing the fund] was never brought to Council, and I think if it was brought to Council that would have never passed,” she said. “No one would have ever approved that happening.”
The fund will reportedly be the subject of a discussion at the February 11th Council meeting.