King’s University College adds city’s first friendship bench

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There are times when Lucas Fiorella would just say hello.

It was how he wanted to help people, to reach them and it worked, his father recalled Tuesday.

“He just said hello and that started a conversation,” his father Sam said of when Lucas knew someone was suffering depression.

“They said they felt comfortable because he was interested and they ended up getting help.”

Tragically, Lucas did not get the help he needed. The young man committed suicide three years ago when he was studying at Ottawa’s Carleton University. He suffered with depression for five to seven years, according to journals he kept, his father said.

“We had no clue he was suffering. He had everything going for him. He did not have student debt. He was doing well in school, had friends. He was athletic. He was a happy kid, but in his head and heart he had pain he could not talk about.”

Now, Sam wants to help students talk. He was at King’s University College to take the wraps off a bright yellow bench he hopes will encourage students to pause, reflect and if they need help, it offers that, too.

The Lucas Fiorella Friendship Bench is yellow to stand out, but its message is contained in a url address on a plaque informing what mental health services are offered nearby and where.

“Our website will detect where you are and show all the local ­resources you can go to if you want to talk to someone,” Fiorella added.

Addressing a small gathering of students outside the student life building, Fiorella said he wanted the bench “to inspire to say hello,” calling it “a call to action. Every time you see it, think about your mental health.

“Feeling depressed is normal. Not talking about feeling depressed is what is not normal.”

King’s reached out to Fiorella to bring a bench here.

“They heard about our program through social media and it worked with their position on social outreach,” said Fiorella.

He has 40 benches at secondary and post-secondary schools across Canada, he added. This is the first bench in London. 

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