RRC installs benches for a mental health awareness initiative

RRCSA President Adam Taplin sits on the friendship bench he built for Red River College. THE PROJECTOR/ Alex Mercer

RRCSA President Adam Taplin sits on the friendship bench he built for Red River College. THE PROJECTOR/ Alex Mercer

Between school, work and fitting in some sleep, students may not have much time to make new friends, but Red River College is hoping to help.

Christine Watson, who is the vice-president of academics at RRC, and the students’ association have installed “friendship benches” at the Notre Dame Campus and the Roblin Centre. There’s one bench at NDC on the main floor by the print store and another in the Roblin Centre in the atrium.

Watson, who brought the idea of the friendship bench to RRC, said the benches are a place for students who are feeling alone to connect with someone else sitting on the bench.

Watson said she got the idea while visiting Humber College in Toronto. She saw a bright yellow bench and a student sitting on it. Behind the bench was a big yellow sign saying to sit down and make a friend. The sign also explained how some people don’t always have a friend to talk to.

She spoke with an engineering student who was sitting on the bench, having a conversation she recalled as “great” before moving on.

“You may not make a lifelong friend, but you had a friend for a moment,” said Adam Taplin, the RRCSA president who built the benches.

The bench at Humber was created as part of the Lucas Fiorella Friendship Bench campaign. Fiorella was a student at Carleton University who committed suicide. The benches are a way to raise awareness about mental health, according to a news release about the campaign.

Watson said the benches are another way RRC is helping students stay positive. The friendship benches were unveiled at the beginning of October during Thrive Week, RRC’s mental health awareness initiative.

Watson said she supports getting rid of the stigma around mental health issues and promoting open conversation about it.

“We want people to feel like they have the opportunity to reach out,” Watson said. “Stress is one part of life, but it doesn’t have to consume you, and there’s always someone willing to listen or help or provide support.”

Taplin said there will be a survey to see what services are popular at the college. He said if students are using the benches, the SA could build more.