Humber College Unveils Friendship Bench To Mark Canada’s Mental Health WeekFirst of two benches to be installed at Humber College in 2016
Toronto, ON May 3rd, 2016 – Humber College is encouraging students to say “hello” with today’s installation of a Friendship Bench at its North Campus. The bright yellow bench, located in the Student Concourse, 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 Lucas Fiorella Friendship Bench, a national not-for-profit based in Oakville, Ont. The organization 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 Humber 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.”
“Humber, and any other postsecondary campus, is an ideal location for this kind of visual reminder of mental health support. Evidence suggests that positive mental health is connected with the likelihood of completing school and increased resilience,” said Chris Whitaker, President, Humber College.
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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