Stop, sit and think.
Those were the instructions students received at the official unveiling of the Yellow Friendship Bench at Penticton Secondary School as part of Mental Health Awareness Week Tuesday.
A national program, the Lucas Fiorella Friendship Bench, is a Canadian-registered not-for-profit corporation that launched in April 2015 to continue the selfless acts of Lucas Fiorella, a Canadian student who, after suffering from depression in secret for a number of years, took his own life in October 2014.
In the aftermath of his death, Lucas’ family and friends learned about his silent battle but also his efforts to reach out and save other students who were also suffering.
A number of Lucas’s high school and university friends and classmates reported that he took the time to reach out to them when he sensed they were suffering from anxiety or depression.
“The Yellow Bench serves as a symbol of openness and a willingness to discuss mental health issues,” said Grade 12 student Elena Selles, in a news release.
The bench, which was made possible by the contributions of the Rotary Club of Penticton the Pen High PAC and 2017 graduating class is to serve as:
“A permanent, physical, and year-round reminder to students to take a moment out of their day to sit, breathe, and talk (or think) about their mental health and that of their friends. It’s intended to inspire peer-to-peer conversations about mental health in order to reduce the stigma and encourage more students seek help.”
There is also a plaque on the bench which links students to the mental health support services on and off-campus. It also lists the #YellowIsForHello hashtag, which connects students to each other and our positive support messages through social media.
Students and staff were asked to wear yellow on that day and there was a special yellow cake and cupcakes to celebrate the event.
“A group of students and teachers came together to educate ourselves about mental health and how we can help our friends and classmates cope,” said Grade 11 student Kathryn Hollman, one of the event organizers.