Yesterday was an important milestone for The Friendship Bench, as the first benches were unveiled in Ottawa, Ontario.
We chose Carleton University as the location for the inaugural unveiling for a number of reasons.
First, it was the university Lucas Fiorella, the young man who inspired this initiative, attended when he finally succumbed to his depression. It’s also the home of many students who reported that their depression was helped, or their planned suicides averted, due to his outreach efforts.
Secondly, Carleton has been a leader among Canadian post-secondary institutions in the development of mental health awareness and support programs for students and faculty.
Since the goal of our program is to inspire daily awareness and conversations about mental health, so that those suffering will seek and obtain the support the need from on- or off-campus professionals, this university was the perfect location to launch The Friendship Bench.
Along with large group of students, faculty members, and community dignitaries, the first Friendship Bench was unveiled along with details about the program, and its importance in helping students open up and talk about mental health issues.
Two benches were installed – one in the main quad, and one inside the university’s busy galleria (for when the typical Canadian winter kicks in!).
While unveiling the bench, Suzanne Blanchard, the university’s Vice President of Students, shared her excitement that Carleton was chosen as the first campus to unveil The Friendship Bench. “The Friendship Bench is a welcome addition and visual reminder for our community to continue the important discussion about mental health, wellness, and mental illnesses…and to encourage students to reach out to on- and off-campus supports when needed.”
“I want to challenge every student,” offered Friendship Bench co-founder Sam Fiorella at the launch. “Every time you walk by this bench, think about your mental health and those of your peers. Learn the signs of someone in distress and, if it’s you or your friends who may be suffering, stop and take a moment to say ‘hello.’ Something positive will come from that conversation starter, especially when it leads to a conversation about mental health.”
Thank you to everyone who has supported us this far, and continues to do so – we’re just getting started, and can’t wait to share more bench unveilings soon!