Sam is a recipient of the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Difference Makers Award, mental health advocate, and a sought-after keynote speaker.
He is the Co-Founder and Managing Director of The Lucas Fiorella Friendship Bench, a Canadian Not For Profit organization focused on decreasing mental health stigma, empowering students with education and resiliency skills, and increasing peer-to-peer conversations about mental health. His campaign is now active in 70 schools across Canada – and growing each month.
The Lucas Fiorella Friendship Bench – and all the work Sam, his family, and his team do – was inspired by his son Lucas who died by suicide after years of silently suffering from depression. After his death, Lucas’s parents learned of his efforts to successfully prevent peers from attempting suicide, leaving school, or suffering from mental illness in silence.
The campaign has seen an almost 20% increase in the number of students asking for help in schools where the #yellowisforhello campaign, including the now-iconic yellow Friendship Bench, is installed.
Today, Sam continues to crisscross the country advocating for student mental health and educating students and parents alike on how to recognize, accept, and better manage the challenges facing our students. His goal remains to decrease the number of student suicides.
AS SEEN ON
STUDENT KEYNOTE – SYNOPSIS
Using a storytelling approach, Sam’s keynote presentation for students does not lecture students; it educates them by retelling other students’ lived experiences across Canada. The lecture does not focus on his son’s death by suicide specifically but on the lessons learned from his son’s efforts to reach out to others who were silently suffering.
The presentation focuses on three main topics:
1. Painting a picture of what depression looks like through lived experience; sharing the story of his son and how he saved other students through the simple act of saying “hello,” recognizing signs that friends were in trouble, and not judging those who were suffering.
2. Sharing stories told to him by thousands of students interviewed across Canada, highlighting how common anxiety, depression, and other forms of mental illness are among Canadian students. The specific focus here is the common thread among all these stories, that despite socio-economic status, social hierarchy, etc. that all students are experiencing similar feelings. We’re not alone.
3. How factors that contribute to the increase in anxiety in the modern digital age are different from what their parents experienced. Such increased pressures do not need to lead to drastic outcomes such as suicide attempts. His lectures offer proven strategies for building resilience toolkits appropriate for students today.
PARENT KEYNOTE – SYNOPSIS
Sam Fiorella’s mental health presentation for parents focuses on sharing the realities of the real struggles Canadian students face today and how that’s affecting their mental health.
He outlines the actual effects of social media overuse, unrealistic expectations, high competition, and an unpredictable future. The presentation highlights that our kids are growing up in a hyper-connected, technology-laced world where our social, political, and cultural norms are changing faster than anyone can keep up.
Sam shares insights from his journey across Canada, talking to tens of thousands of parents, students, and educators after losing his 19-year-old son to depression. Sam honestly and humbly shares his ignorance and prejudices before losing his son, the mental illnesses experienced by both his children and what every parent should be asking themselves – and their kids – to avoid finding themselves in the same situation.
According to Mr. Fiorella, parents have the most significant role in changing the growing number of teen suicide attempts and completions, but education is required. This powerful and eye-opening presentation is a must for every parent seeking to help build stronger resiliency among their teen and pre-teen-aged kids.