BY RYA WALFORD
Sheridan College’s Student Union is taking its first big step in mental health awareness by joining the Yellow is for Hello campaign and installing a friendship bench on each campus.
SSU president Sylvia Ibrahim discovered the organization when she saw a video of another school’s bench unveiling. After doing some research she “fell in love with the organization’s concept and decided to reach out to the health and counselling, department who were very open and supportive to the idea.”
“The bench serves as a physical and permanent reminder to all of us. It’s intended to inspire peer-to-peer conversations about mental health in order to reduce the stigma and encourage more students seek help,” says Ibrahim.
The SSU is gearing up for the big unveil with Kindness Week. “Our events and awareness coordinators have planned events such as Pay It Forward and Make Your Dreams Come True,” says Ibrahim.
Make Your Dreams Come True is designed “to show that SSU doesn’t only care about students having fun or students doing things academically, but we also care about their personal lives as well,” says Akil Mackenzie, SSU events coordinator at Trafalgar Campus.
The event consists of students writing their name, email and a dream they want to come true this year on a piece of paper and putting it into a box.
At the end of the week Mackenzie will pick a name from the box and email the winner telling them how he’s going to try to make the dream come true and “when that person comes to accept [their prize] they get to reach in and pull out another name and that person gets their dream to come true too which is supposed to show that when you receive good things you should also give back.”
There will be an unveiling ceremony at each campus: Jan 23 for Trafalgar, Jan 24 for Davis and finally Jan 25 for HMC, all at 1 p.m.
The installations come just in time for Bell Let’s Talk day which is Jan 25.
“This campaign will not stop after the unveiling of the benches. We’re hoping to continue the conversation with the help of the many programs offered by the friendship bench organization,” says Ibrahim.
Currently the friendship bench is installed at three Oakville secondary schools as well as Humber and Seneca Colleges.
Humber unveiled the bench in May. For some students it has been a great way to talk to their peers but for others they feel it isn’t something they would consider using.
“It may be great for some students but I don’t see it being important to me personally,” says Edis Rahic, a third-year Criminology student at Humber.
According to Rahic promotion of the bench was scarce. “The only time I ever acknowledged the bench was an ad from the televisions in the campus.”
Ibrahim is hoping that Kindness Week will get the students talking about the upcoming installation, as well as using social media, the SSU and college’s websites and having the health and counselling departments referring students.
“I certainly think it is a big step and I’m very happy that it’s being well-received by everyone. We’re very excited,” says Ibrahim.