Saving lives through 'hello': Regina welcomes province's 1st Yellow Friendship Bench
Saskatchewan's first Yellow Friendship Bench was installed Wednesday at Regina's Saskatchewan Polytechnic with the hope to start more conversations around mental health, and potentially save lives in the process.
The bench is one of 27 that have been installed at post-secondary campuses across the country over the past two years.
Sitting on the bench comes with a call to action to reach out and say "hello" to those around you, and to also take the time to assess your own mental health.
"One 'hello' can start a conversation that saves a life," said Sam Fiorelli, the man behind the movement. "We have the power to connect to those who are suffering in silence and all it takes is a simple 'hello.'"
Fiorella was inspired to get the Yellow Friendship Bench project going after his son's death by suicide in 2014.
The bench is also meant to connect students to available on-campus and in-community mental health resources.
"Mental illness may have no visible, outward signs, but it affects many of our students," Saskatchewan Polytechnic provost and vice-president Anne Neufeld said.
"We want to encourage everyone to speak openly about mental health. We have a lot of services on campus that can, and will, help."
'No clue that he was suffering'
Fiorelli said he lost his son "after a very long battle with depression" but that "we had no clue that he was suffering."
At the time, Lucas was in his second year at Carleton University in Ottawa and his friends and professors were also in the dark about his mental health.
In the days following his death, his father was surprised to find out that Lucas had reached out to at least a dozen people in his life who needed help with their own mental health. Some said he even prevented their own suicide.
"Every one of those stories started with one of his friends or colleagues saying to me, 'He just came up and said 'hello,' and because I needed that at that moment, I just broke down and I told him everything.'
"That's what has inspired this program."
To continue Lucas' legacy, Fiorelli also started the #YellowIsForHello campaign to get the conversation going on social media, targeting youth.
Suicide is second leading cause of death among Canadians aged 15 to 34, according to Statistics Canada.