A 30-day fundraising campaign has started to bring the Friendship Bench to W.L. Seaton Secondary School.
Alumni from the class of 1996 chose to support mental health awareness as the theme of their legacy project. Funds are being collected at http://thefriendshipbench.org/w-l-seaton-alumni-legacy-project/
“Although the hope is to engage Seaton alumni in the fundraising, community support is needed to make this project a reality,” said Sarah Hanson, a member of the Grad ‘96 class.
“Mental health affects us all, and it is time to stand up and talk about it.”
The Friendship Bench is a not-for-profit organization which strives to connect Canadian students who are in need of help with existing mental health resources.
The organization was co-founded by Sam Fiorella in memory of his son Lucas, a second-year student at Carleton University who died by suicide in 2014 after living in silence with depression.
“Losing Lucas opened our eyes to the epidemic of mental health issues among students and the need to raise awareness of both the challenges and of the many resources that are in place to help them cope with stress, anxiety, depression and the challenges of school,” said Fiorella.
“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. This bench will serve as a permanent reminder to students, faculty and staff about the importance of mental health awareness.”
A 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 foster conversations among students in Canadian schools, where mental health concerns are on the rise,” states a release.
“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 at schools, the Lucas Fiorella Friendship Bench co-ordinates local and national awareness campaigns, creates mental health tips and coping strategies for students, and facilitates students accessing the growing list of on-campus mental health services.