My daughter and I watched 13 Reasons Why together on Netflix. Apparently, she was ‘shook.’ We have had many deep discussions around the show and surviving High School and dealing with mental health issues. As well as taking a dark look at suicide and rape, the show did a great job of showing how fragile EVERYONE is no matter what they are putting out there. In this age of FAKE, that is a message that can easily be forgotten. Especially by tweens and teens who live by Instagram, Snapchat and how meme’d you are.
My middle child starts grade 8 in September. My oldest is trying to navigate grade 9 right now and it has been a bumpy road so far for him. He is popular and well liked, which for me is odd as my teen experience was a lot different and I have trouble relating to that. It was more torturous for me and I have trepidation that C will go through it more like myself.
I hated High School. I have likened it to a prison sentence. Do your time. Keep your head down and get through it. I did have friends….good friends who I still talk to this day. I just didn’t enjoy high school. I remember feeling very lonely. A lot.
So I am very interested in the success of this #YellowIsForHello initiative.
May 1 to the 7th is Mental Health Awareness Week and a ‘Friendship’ Bench will be installed at various High schools across Canada. On Monday, May 1st, a #YellowIsForHello Friendship Bench will be installed at Sutherland Secondary in Vancouver, BC to provide a safe space for peer-to-peer conversations and to increase awareness about mental health.
The Bench will be installed at these other four schools during the awareness week:
Strathcona High School, Edmonton, AB – Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017
Saskatchewan Polytechnic, Regina, SK – Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017
Grant Park High School, Winnipeg, MB – Thursday, May 4th, 2017
Gonzaga High School, St. John’s, NL – Friday, May 5th, 2017
Each Friendship Bench is a permanent symbol to encourage students to take a minute of out their day to sit, breathe and talk (or think) about their mental health and that of their peers. In only two years, there are already 27 benches in place on campuses across the country – not including the five being added during Mental Health Week. The benches and #YellowIsForHello campaign serve as a valuable resource to:
- Encourage peer-to-peer conversations about mental health
- Via the on-bench web-address/hashtag, connect students with available on-campus mental health support service
- Act as a tool to help inspire and augment existing on-campus mental health awareness efforts
Did you know that one in five Canadian teenagers seriously considered suicide in the past year? Would you recognize the signs if your son or daughter was one of them? The hard truth is that most children struggling with depression suffer in silence. Never opening up to family. Never talking to a friend. Refusing to seek professional support.
Tragically, Sam was inspired to found The Friendship Bench initiative after the loss of his son Lucas in 2014. At the time, Lucas was in his second year of university, and Sam and his family were utterly unaware that Lucas was suffering with depression. The shock and overwhelming loss shook Sam to his very core and, in Lucas’ memory, he is determined to help others open up before it’s too late.
“As a parent, learning that your child is suffering alone – when if you only knew, you could have helped, is your worst fear,” says Sam Fiorella, father of Lucas Fiorella and co-founder of The Friendship Bench. “You can’t rewrite the past but you can certainly change the future. Suicide is second leading cause of death among Canadians aged 15 – 34. No parent should find out their child is suffering when it’s too late to do anything about it.”
With only one in five children who need mental health services actually obtaining them, The Friendship Bench hopes to end the stigma about mental health and encourage more students to seek help, including peer-to-peer conversations by placing yellow benches across Canadian campuses. All Friendship benches include a plaque with a link to www.yellowisforhello.org, which provides links to mental health support services on and off-campus.
“While Lucas was silently dealing with depression, we learned from friends that he made an effort to help others who were also suffering. Each conversation started with a simple ‘hello’,” says Sam Fiorella. “No one knows for certain how much impact they have on the lives of other people but we have to at least try our best and start with a hello.”
“Today’s youth don’t want to hear from clinicians or parents,” confirms Fiorella. “They want to crowdsource everything and without that, they’re less likely to ask for help, which is why the number of students asking for help seems to be rising in the schools where we’ve donated the #YellowIsForHello benches.”
More additional schools have already requested a bench for their campus. To learn more about the #YellowIsForHello campaign, visit www.yellowisforhello.org.
About The Friendship Bench
The Friendship Bench provides an actionable program that encourages student-to-student conversations about mental health, facilitates peer-to-peer support networks, and funds on-campus mental health programs with the installation of yellow benches. To learn more about The Friendship Bench, visit www.thefrienshipbench.org.