Champlain College Saint-Lambert Unveils Friendship Bench to Mark Canada’s Mental Health WeekFirst bench to be launched in Quebec as program continues to expand across Canada
Saint-Lambert, QC, May 4th, 2016 – The Lucas Fiorella Friendship Bench, a national not-for-profit based in Oakville, Ont., was proud to mark Mental Health Week today by unveiling its first bench in the province of Quebec. The bright yellow bench at Champlain College Saint-Lambert will serve as a safe space for students to connect with their peers and as a permanent visual reminder of the importance of speaking openly about mental health issues.
The bench is part of the #YellowIsForHello campaign created by the organization, which is installing benches at three Canadian schools and launching associated programming during Mental Health Week this year in an effort to connect Canadian students in need of help with existing mental health resources, both on- and off-campus.
Suicide is now the second-leading cause of death among Canadians aged 15 – 34, according to statistics provided by the University of Guelph. That does not include the number of students who have considered suicide or who have dropped out of school due to depression or other mental health-related issues.
Those statistics have a deeply personal meaning for Friendship Bench co-founder Sam Fiorella, whose son Lucas died by suicide in 2014. Hoping to raise awareness of mental health issues and prevent future tragedies, Fiorella and his friends launched #YellowIsForHello in April, 2015.
“Losing Lucas opened our eyes to the epidemic of mental health issues among students and the need to raise awareness and erase stigma,” said Fiorella. “We’re proud to be helping Champlain College do just that by encouraging personal connections and conversations about mental health, as well as connecting students to the many support services offered here on campus. I can’t think of a better way to mark Mental Health Week 2016 than to celebrate the installation of a new Friendship bench and honour the College’s commitment to student wellness.”
“Champlain College is proud to partner with the Champlain Student Association and the Lucas Fiorella Friendship Bench to install this permanent reminder that will highlight the important resources available to students at the College” mentioned Don Shewan, Campus Director, Champlain College.
“With the increase of college students suffering from emotional stressors, counselling services and peer support programs on campus act as protective factors against mental health issues,” said Student Services counsellor Wanita Jones. “We believe the Friendship Bench will help us in our efforts to build a culture of support and recognition of the importance of mental health services. As a community, we need to communicate this message of hope to our students in as many ways possible to fight against silence and isolation.”
About The Friendship Bench
Bright yellow Friendship Benches were installed at five Canadian campuses in 2015. Nine additional benches have been confirmed already in 2016, with several more in the planning stages. In many cases the local fundraising efforts have been spearheaded by friends and family in tribute to a student who died from mental health issues. The benches – and the support programs that go with them – are working. Schools which received a bench last year are reporting an average 18% increase in the number of students seeking help from existing campus mental health support services. Each bench features a URL where students can quickly access on-campus and local mental health and suicide prevention services.
In addition to installing the bench on campuses, the Lucas Fiorella Friendship Bench coordinates local and national awareness campaigns, creates and curates mental health tips and coping strategies for students, and facilitates students accessing the growing list of on-campus mental health services so that fewer students will suffer in silence and fewer students will be left to consider suicide as their only option.
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