Friendship Bench Unveiled at University of WaterlooNational program raises awareness of student mental health
Waterloo, ON November 4th, 2015 – In the face of a growning student mental health crisis at colleges and universities across Canada, the University of Waterloo has a new tool at its disposal to raise awareness and improve student wellness. The Lucas Fiorella Friendship Bench unveiled its signature bright yellow bench on campus today to mark the launch of its mental health awareness program at the school.
The Friendship Bench is a national not-for-profit organization which strives to connect Canadian students who are in need of help with existing mental health resources, both on- and off-campus. The program is taking on the challenge of reducing the escalating number of suicides among Canadian students by being a daily presence – both physically and digitally – at a time and place when academic, social, and financial pressures are greatest. The organization was co-founded by Sam Fiorella in memory of his son Lucas, a second-year student at Carleton University who died by suicide in the fall of 2014 after living in silence with depression.
“Losing Lucas opened our eyes to the epidemic of mental health issues among students and the need to raise awareness of both the challenges and of the many resources that are in place to help them cope with stress, anxiety, depression and the challenges of school,” said Fiorella. “The Friendship Bench aims to do just that by encouraging personal connections and conversations about mental health, as well as connecting students to the many support services offered on campus. This bench will serve as a permanent reminder to students, faculty and staff about the importance of mental health awareness, and is a reflection of the university’s commitment to student wellness.”
About The Friendship Bench
The yellow bench was chosen as the organization’s icon because it represents students taking a moment out of their hectic lives to stop and engage each other. It will serve as a constant visual reminder of the importance of mental health awareness and foster conversations among students in Canadian schools, where mental health concerns are on the rise. Further, each bench will feature 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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