The Friendship Bench Announces First Four Canadian Host Schools

Inaugural Friendship Bench to be unveiled at Carleton University Sept. 2 - the first of four Canadian schools to adopt a new student mental health awareness program.

Toronto, ON August 28th, 2015 – Canadian non-profit organization The Friendship Bench has selected the first four schools to host its student mental health awareness programs.

A yellow bench – the organization’s icon – will be installed this fall at Carleton University (Ottawa, ON), Niagara College (Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON), Holy Trinity High School (Oakville, ON), and Simon Fraser University (Burnaby, BC) with another 25 Canadian secondary or post-secondary schools to be added within the year.

The bench serves as a year-round visual reminder for students to speak openly about mental health issues and to encourage them to both ask for help and offer it to those in need. In addition, the organization will support existing on-campus mental health organizations within host-schools.

The official unveiling of the first bench will be held at Carleton University on Wednesday, September 2 at noon in the Tory Quad (rain location Galleria, University Centre). Students, faculty, members of the media and the public are encouraged to attend.

Holding the inaugural installation ceremony at Carleton University is particularly meaningful for Sam Fiorella, who co-founded The Friendship Bench in memory of his son Lucas. Lucas Fiorella was a second-year student at Carleton when, after suffering silently with depression, he took his own life in the fall of 2014.

“Losing Lucas was a huge shock and an unfathomable loss for everyone who knew and loved him,” said Fiorella of his son’s death. “It also opened our eyes to the epidemic of mental health issues among students and the need to raise awareness of both the issue and of the many resources that are in place to help them cope with stress, anxiety, depression and the challenges of school. 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.”

“The Friendship Bench builds upon Carleton’s strong commitment, programs and services that support wellness and mental health and we are proud to launch the first bench in Canada,” said Suzanne Blanchard, Vice-President (Students and Enrolment). “At Carleton we are dedicated to promoting a healthy, supportive and inclusive campus environment that not only promotes mental health awareness but also encourages all members of our community to access both on- and off-campus support services when needed.”

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 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 campus, the volunteer organization 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 few students will suffer in silence and fewer students will be left to consider suicide as their only option.

Media inquiries may be directed to:
Sam Fiorella Email: Phone: 416-484-1400 ext. 3