The University of Alberta is encouraging students to say “hello” with the unveiling of its new friendship bridge. The Yellow is for Hello campaign is meant to encourage students to talk about their mental health.
The campaign was started by Sam Fiorella after he lost his son to mental illness. In the aftermath of his son’s death, Fiorella says he learned that during his son’s battle with depression, he would reach out to other students who were also suffering.
Fiorella wanted that support to continue in his son’s memory and started the campaign to offer support for people that may not have the help that they need.
Friendship benches have been placed in over 24 campuses across Canada. The bench is to encourage students to take time out of their day to sit and chat with friends or peers, or even to just take a quick moment of reflection about their mental health.
“This program was started to encourage more peer to peer conversation among students so that they will feel more empowered to then go ahead and speak to their parents and professionals to get the help that they need,” says Fiorella.
Each bench has a plaque that will link students to the website of the campaign and has information on mental health and where to get help.
“We’re shocked by the sheer number of kids that remain silent even if they are secretly suffering,” Fiorella adds.
Fiorella is working to have a bench placed in every post-secondary school across Canada.