University Student’s Suicide Inspires Canadian Mental Health Awareness Initiative

A yellow bench, the organization’s icon, will be installed at participating secondary and post-secondary institutions as a visual reminder for students to speak openly about mental health issues and to encourage them to both ask for help and offer it to those in need. In addition, the organization will fund existing on-campus mental health organization and support their ongoing efforts to help students.

“Until Lucas’s death, we did not know he was suffering with depression,” states Sam Fiorella, Lucas’s father. “He was always surrounded by friends who saw him as the ‘go-to guy’ when they needed a laugh or friendship. We had no clue.” Lucas was accepted by Carleton University, his first choice for post-secondary education where he studied Robotics as part of the Computer Sciences undergraduate program. He was an active snowboarder, had a job, dated, and was always a popular kid. Like so many students, Lucas suffered in silence until his depression caused him to end his life.

Suicide is now the 2nd leading cause of death among Canadians aged 15 – 34, according to statistics provided by the University of Guelph. That does not include the number of students who have considered suicide or who have dropped out due to depression or other mental health-related issues. “Despite his suffering, Lucas dedicated himself to reaching out to other who he believed were also suffering,” Fiorella. “In fact, after his death, about a dozen of Lucas’s peers reached out to me privately to share their story of how Lucas reached out to them when they were considering suicide. In each case they had not spoken about their feelings to anyone. It’s this silence that we’re trying to prevent with the Friendship Bench program.”

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