Say ‘hello’ at The Friendship Bench

BY DANIELLE OBAL

All it takes is a simple “hello,” to break the ice when meeting new people, and, to some, the impact could mean more than just a simple greeting.

Mental health is a growing concern among college students, and to raise awareness, The Friendship Bench foundation is installing the bright yellow benches at Sheridan College from Jan. 23 to Jan. 25.

(Photo via The Friendship Bench)

The Friendship Bench is a Canadian not-for-profit charity in honour of Lucas Fiorella, a student who silently suffered from depression while studying at Carleton University and took his own life.

Lucas’ father, Sam Fiorella, is one of the co-founders and the mission is to give support to those who may be unable to ask for help.

The goal is to educate individuals about youth depression through peer conversation and to try to lower the number of suicides and suicide attempts among Canadian students.

“Our hope through the friendship bench installation is that it serves as a visual reminder for students to openly talk about mental health, to take a break, eat lunch with friends, say hello and help the organization’s goal of reducing the escalating number of youth suicides,” says Sylvia Ibrahim, President of the Sheridan Student Union.

The Friendship Bench is partnering with the Sheridan Student Union and the Health and Counselling Department to bring attention to new and creative ways students can feel at ease about mental health with just a simple conversation, including on-campus lectures.

As of Oct. 2016, 22 benches have been installed across Canada with another 40 schools waiting for benches to be installed within the year.

“The campaign involves on-campus support, lectures, and awareness campaigns such as “Bench Conversations,” “10 Days of Happy,” and “100 Misfits.” We would love for the students to get involved in these discussions on campus to help facilitate an open and friendly environment,” says Ibrahim.

It’s a permanent addition to some post-secondary schools, and painted bright yellow to draw interest in the bench, which includes a plaque with the hashtag #YellowIsForHello. Students can use this hashtag to connect with other students through social media to engage in a positive and supportive environment.

The Friendship Bench will be located at all Sheridan campuses. At Trafalgar, the bench will be in the B-wing starting at 1p.m. on Jan. 23.

“I’m hoping ALL students use the friendship bench. Whether it be to seek help or offer help. A simple “hello” could really save lives,” says Ibrahim.

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