The Friendship Bench Reaches $10,000 Fundraising Milestone In Just 48 Hours

– Overwhelming support received for new mental health and suicide prevention initiative

Toronto, ON April 24, 2015 – Thanks to an outpouring of support from the community, The Friendship Bench (www.thefriendshipbench.org) achieved its first fundraising target of $10,000 just 48 hours after launching the project.

The Friendship Bench was launched on April 21st, 2015 in honor of Lucas Fiorella, a 2nd year university student who, before succumbing to depression and taking his own life, sought out and helped other students secretly suffering from anxiety and depression.

The introductory video posted to the Bench’s Facebook page was shared more than 400 times and viewed by more than 22,000 people within 48 hours (not including views and shares that occurred on the official website). The organization is encouraging people to speak out about depression, anxiety and suicide, and raising funds to support existing, on-campus student services programs dedicated to serving the mental health of the student body.

A yellow bench, the organization’s icon, will be installed at participating secondary and post-secondary institutions as a 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 fund existing on-campus mental health organization and support their ongoing efforts to help students.

“We have been amazed by the level of interest and support for The Friendship Bench,” says Sam Fiorella, Lucas’ father and a co-founder of the organization. “From the bottom of our hearts, thank you! With our first target of $10,000 achieved we can move ahead with plans to install the first two benches on Canadian campuses. More importantly, we have heard from so many people who have been suffering in silence and have been inspired to reach out for help or offer support to others. That conversation must continue. Now we’re focused on our next goal of $25,000, which would see benches installed at five Canadian schools.”

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 due to depression or other mental health-related issues. In the US, six percent of undergraduates and four percent of graduate students in four-year colleges have “seriously considered attempting suicide” in the past year—and nearly half of each group did not tell anyone.

About The Friendship Bench

The Friendship Bench initiative seeks to build and install yellow benches on secondary and post-secondary campuses across the country. The goal of the bench is to serve as a visual reminder that:

  • we all experience some level of anxiety and/or depression in school
  • it’s important to talk about what causes the stressors that contribute to that anxiety and to speak out when we’re experiencing it
  • we must be open to the attitudes, comments, and behaviours of fellow students and reach out to those whom we think need friendship

But it’s more than just a bench. Where benches are installed, the Friendship Bench’s volunteers will work with existing on-campus student services groups – in both secondary and post-secondary institutions – that are focused on:

  • helping new students acclimate to their life on campus
  • educating students about mental health issues, in particular how to identify signs of depression and how to get help
  • helping students open up to their peers, counselors and families about any of the stressors caused by life on campus

The program will offer:

  1. delivery and installation of a branded bench with a URL engraved into the back for students to learn more about the causes of anxiety and depression, as well as links to on-campus and provincial associations that offer help
  2. a donation to the local student services group focused on mental health awareness, education, and support
  3. branded gear and social media campaigns to assist in on-campus awareness efforts
  4. lecture(s) by Sam Fiorella, the father of Lucas Fiorella, who, through his and his son’s experience, will highlight the causes of stressors on campus, the reason many students don’t seek help, and how students can identify the signs that they or their friends are succumbing to these pressures and possibly falling into depression.

The organization is currently campaigning to raise CAD$25,000 for the first 5 installations. In honour of Lucas Fiorella, the first bench is planned to be installed at Carleton University this fall.  Funds are being collected on Tilt, a Canadian-based crowdfunding website.

About The Founders

The founders of the Friendship Bench are three friends and fathers who each have a connection to depression and mental illness: Danny Brown, an author and award-winning marketer and blogger, Robert Clarke, owner of a Canadian marketing firm, and Sam Fiorella, author, marketer, and entrepreneur.

Media inquiries may be directed to:
Alison King:  alison@thefriendshipbench.org  

Connect with us

Need Help?

 
If you need help immediately, visit your local emergency department or call 911.

If your school has a bench installed, you can find the Local Resources to help you here, where we can provide on-campus support services.

If you need help and you’re unsure where to start, the Provincial Resources listed on this site can help - click here to learn more.

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