Seneca makes significant commitment to student mental health with installation of The Friendship Bench at multiple campuses

Seneca Professor and The Friendship Bench co-founder marks first-ever multi-campus installation

Toronto, November 28, 2016 This week, bright yellow benches will be unveiled at Seneca’s four main campuses to encourage people to talk about mental health – the first-ever multi-campus installation in Canada.

The Friendship Bench’s #YellowIsForHello initiative began after Seneca Professor Sam Fiorella’s son, Lucas, who was suffering from depression in silence, died by suicide in 2014. Fiorella and his co-founders wanted to continue Lucas’ legacy of saying hello to friends in need and offering a non-judgmental ear, in the hopes that parents and students would become more educated about mental health and hopefully not experience similar tragedies.

Benches have been installed at high school, college and university campuses across the country, not as a memorial, but to serve as constant, permanent, visual reminders to talk openly about mental health issues.

“The goal of the initiative is to reduce the escalating number of youth suicides,” says Fiorella. “What I have learned over the past two years is that young people don’t want to talk about mental health with their parents or professionals. They want to talk to their peers and know they are not alone. We need to make it completely OK to not be OK and to talk about how we’re feeling.”

With suicide now the second-leading cause of death among Canadians aged 15 to 34, developing a culture of openness around student mental health has never been more important. The #YellowIsForHello program will help Seneca foster an environment where students are free to talk and learn about mental health.

“We’re delighted Seneca is unveiling a Friendship Bench at each of its four main campuses and acknowledging the importance of this issue,” said Fiorella.

“By joining the #YellowIsForHello program, Seneca is continuing our commitment to students that makes it clear we care about you, we care about your mental health,” says David Johnston, Acting Director – Counselling and Accessibility Services, Seneca. “We hope this initiative will encourage people to talk to their peers and to seek on-campus help when they need it.”

In secondary and postsecondary institutions where the benches are installed, there has been an 18 per cent increase in students seeking on-campus mental health assistance.

The benches will be unveiled:

  • Wednesday November 30, 9:30 a.m. at Newnham campus, Bld. A, Minkler Atrium (1750 Finch Ave. East, Toronto)
  • Thursday December 1, 11 a.m. at Markham campus, 2nd Floor (8 The Seneca Way, Markham)
  • Thursday December 1, 2 p.m. at Seneca@York campus, Hallway south of the Bookstore (70 The Pond Road)
  • Friday December 2, 2 p.m. at King Campus, Main Lobby (13990 Dufferin Street, King City)

With campuses in Toronto, York Region and Peterborough, Seneca offers degrees, diplomas, certificates and graduate programs renowned for their quality and respected by employers. It is one of the largest comprehensive colleges in Canada, offering nearly 300 full-time, part-time and online programs. Combining the highest academic standards with work-integrated and applied learning, expert teaching faculty and the latest technology ensure Seneca graduates are career-ready.

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The mandate of the Lucas Fiorella Friendship Bench is to connect students dealing with mental health issues, and who are unsure or unable to ask for help, with campus resources and other students willing to help or listen. The yellow benches being installed on high school and university campuses across Canada serve as a visual reminder of the importance of mental health awareness and conversations among students.  Each bench features a URL where students can quickly access on-campus and local mental health and suicide-prevention services. Connect with The Friendship Bench on social:

For media inquiries and images please contact:

Emily Milic
Seneca Media Relations
416-491-5050 ext. 77018

Alison King
Communications Director
The Friendship Bench