Image Credit: Saskatchewan Polytechnic
Image Credit: Saskatchewan Polytechnic

Friendship Benches at Saskatchewan Polytechnic promotes conversations about wellness

Yellow Friendship Benches have been installed at Moose Jaw, Regina and Saskatoon campuses to encourage conversations about mental health


January 29, 2019 – Bright and yellow, these benches have a very specific purpose – to encourage conversations about mental health. Through a special gift provided by the Annie's Friends Foundation established by Dr. Anne Neufeld, former provost and vice-president, Academic for Sask Polytech, Friendships Benches have been installed at Moose Jaw, Saskatoon and Prince Albert campuses.

Tragically, Sam Fiorella was inspired to found The Friendship Bench initiative after the loss of his son, Lucas. At the time, Lucas was a university student and Fiorella and his family were unaware he was suffering with depression. The Friendship Bench was created to help others open up before it’s too late. Regina campus received a Friendship Bench in May 2017.

The Friendship Bench initiative, has set out to install the yellow benches across the country to:

  • Encourage peer-to-peer conversation about mental health among students in order to drive greater awareness of the disease and greater recognition of the symptoms, knowledge of prevention and support services available.
  • Connect students to available on-campus and in-community mental health resources.
  • Educate students and parents about the causes and signs of the various forms of mental illness so students may be more aware of their own mental health and that of their friends.

“The curtain around the stigma of mental health is now being lifted because of events like this and because of the generosity and courage of people like Dr. Anne Neufeld and Sam Fiorella,” says Dr. Larry Rosia, Sask Polytech president and CEO. “At Sask Polytech we believe in the importance of health and wellness supports to assist our students and employees in reaching their full potential. Thank you Dr. Neufeld for your generous donation and Mr. Fiorella for your tireless advocacy efforts.”

“I’ve always been passionate about health and wellness,” says Dr. Anne Neufeld, founder of Annie's Friends Foundation. “Initiatives such as the Friendship Bench encourage students, faculty and staff to find the support they need to be successful in achieving their educational, career and life goals.”

The Friendship Benches are being installed in advance of Bell Let’s Talk day on January 30 to support and encourage students to engage in conversations about mental health.

Annie’s Friends Foundation, founded by Canadian entrepreneur Dr. Anne Neufeld, supports initiatives in health and wellness, education and the arts. The foundation does not accept unsolicited applications. Annie’s Friends Foundation is affiliated with the TD Private Giving Foundation.

The Friendship Bench hopes to end the stigma about mental health and encourages student-to-student conversations about mental health, facilitates peer-to-peer support networks, and funds on-campus mental health programs with the installation of yellow Friendship Bench. To learn more about The Friendship Bench, visit www.thefriendshipbench.org.

Friendship Benches at Saskatchewan Polytechnic promotes conversations about wellness