The Friendliest Bench on Campus

It started with a “hello.”

This post involves a story that includes thoughts of suicide. You may be concerned that someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts. You may be thinking about suicide yourself. You are not alone. The most important thing you can do is reach out to give or get help.

“His smile did not convey what was going on inside.” – Sam Fiorella (Co-Founder of the Lucas Fiorella Friendship Bench and Suicide Survivor)

It is Wednesday, November 23, 2016. The rain that has started overnight continue to drench the campus in a layer of misty gray. The last remnants of autumn falls quickly, blending together under the feet of students in a mosaic of reds, browns, and fading oranges. Seats are sparse in Irving K Barber, and the lineup for coffee slowly diminishes as people began to make their way to the bus loop or back to residence. It is a typical day on campus, but somehow, something looks different.

A little yellow bench now stands in front of a familiar building. This new addition to campus, the Friendship Bench, serves as a permanent, physical, and year-round reminder to students to take a moment out of their day to reflect upon their mental health. The bench is meant to inspire peer-to-peer conversations about mental health, to reduce stigma and encourage students facing challenges to reach out for help.

This year, UBC will be unveiling the Friendship Bench on November 23 to pledge our support for mental health awareness and encourage individuals to reach out for help. UBC welcomes everyone to attend the unveiling on November 23, 2016 from noon to 1:30pm in the Brock Hall Concourse. The event includes free food, a chance to chat, and messages of hope.

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The Lucas Fiorella Friendship Bench

Lucas Fiorella was a Canadian student who always made the effort to reach out to other students whom he sensed were struggling with  depression or anxiety. Each conversation started out with a “hello,” and with this “hello” Lucas gave his peers the courage to open up about their challenges to family members or professionals.

Tragically, Lucas Fiorella took his own life in October 2014, after quietly suffering from depression for a number of years.  

Inspired by his efforts, the Lucas Fiorella Friendship Bench Organization seeks to decrease and eventually reduce suicides and suicide attempts by encouraging peer-to-peer conversation to reduce the stigma around mental health. The organization also aims to connect students with on-campus and community mental health resources, and educate students and parents about the various forms of mental illness to increase awareness for mental health.

For more information about the organization and their work, please visit: TheFriendshipBench.org.

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If you need help for yourself or you are concerned about someone else, please reach out.

UBC Vancouver Campus Resources

UBC Counselling Services
604-822-3811  |   Brock Hall 1874 East Mall Room 1040

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Lower Mall Research Station  |   2259 Lower Mall Room 358

Emergency and after-hours contacts:

Vancouver Crisis Line: 1-800-784-2433
Vancouver General Hospital: 604-875-4995
Campus Security: 604-822-2222 
Emergency Services: 911

It can be easy to feel small on a campus so big, but we can all do our part to make connections and build a community. By saying hello and encouraging empathetic conversations about mental health, we can all play an important role in making it okay to reach out.

Post Written by Kleo Fang