Carleton University students would have a tough time ignoring the presence of the bright yellow bench in their main quad. And that’s the point. The vividly painted bench, installed in September, is meant to be a daily visual reminder for students to open up and talk about mental health issues.
The bench is the first of several to be installed at schools across Canada this year by Canadian non-profit The Friendship Bench. The initiative is a tribute to Lucas Fiorella, a second-year Carleton robotics student who took his own life last October after suffering silently with depression.
Sam Fiorella, Lucas’ father and co-founder of The Friendship Bench says many people don’t ask for help in spite of the resources available. He says after Lucas’s death, peers reached out to the Fiorella family to share stories of how Lucas had helped them when they needed support, perhaps even saving their lives. That’s what inspired Mr. Fiorella, who is hoping the benches will be part of his son’s legacy by helping to remove the stigma of mental health issues on campus and reminding students to look out for one another.