The Lucas Fiorella Friendship Bench is a not-for-profit corporation that was launched after the death of Lucas Fiorella in April of 2015. Sam Fiorella, Lucas’ father, only learned of his son’s depression after he had taken his life. His family and friends learned not only about his silent battle but also how Lucas helped so many others with theirs. After his passing many came forward about how Lucas changed their lives by simply taking the time to reach out and say hello when they were at their lowest points. Sam wants to continue his son’s work by helping others battling in silence.
Sam Fiorella speaking at the Friendship Bench unveiling at the University of Alberta
“Lucas was doing this well before I even knew there was a need. This was something that he started, we’re just finding a way to make it work.”
Inspired by Lucas’ efforts to reach out to others, the #yellowisforhello campaign was born, with the goal of eliminating student suicide and attempted suicide through:
- Encouraging peer-to-peer conversation about mental health.
- Connecting more students to available on-campus and in-community mental health resources.
- Educating students and parents about the causes and signs of the various forms of mental illness.
To achieve these goals, Sam Fiorella developed The Friendship Bench, a bright yellow reminder to students to think about mental health, whether that be their own or their peers. Reminding them to take a moment to sit and think or spark a conversation about mental health.
One of two Friendship Benches at the Rutherford Library with informational plaque
Each bench has a plaque with yellowisforhello.org on it, the site provides mental health support and education services on and off-campus at each location. The campaign’s #yellowisforhello hashtag is also on the plaque, connecting students to positive social media outlets and mental health awareness movements.
University of Alberta, Rutherford Library Friendship Bench before the reveal
Guest speaker at the University of Alberta Friendship Bench event
NAIT student, Vicki Formanski enjoying a yellow cupcake at the University of Alberta Friendship Bench reveal
Mental health informational booths set up at the Rutherford Library during the Friendship Bench event
The University of Alberta became the latest school to become a part of the campaign. Megan Wickstrom, a 25 year old U of A student taking her masters in coaching believes that the idea behind the bench is something every school should get behind and hopes the students that walk past it understand its significance.
“Every time that I use the library I walk past the bench, it’s a constant reminder to reach out and how one simple hello can make a difference and to also not be afraid to ask for help”
The #yellowisforhello campaign goal is to have a Friendship Bench in every post-secondary school across Canada. There are currently 26 benches across the country with new benches being added every year.
Friendship Bench locations across Canada