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Sit down, take a moment

[Thrive organizers]
Thrive organizers Angela Reed, Sydney Downey and Emily Johnston (left to right) take a break after a busy week of events. The new yellow benches on main and west campuses will serve to remind the Queen’s community about the importance of positive mental health and well-being.

A few days after hosting more than 70 events over a one-week period, Thrive organizers Sydney Downey, Angela Reed and Emily Johnston can finally relax. They reflect on the inaugural event while sitting on one of two new yellow benches, which they hope will continually remind the Queen’s community about the importance of positive mental health and well-being.

“From the beginning, we saw the first week in November as the first step toward helping people ‘thrive 365,’” says Sydney Downey, Manager, Return to Work and Accommodation Services in Human Resources (HR). “I think we have made progress toward that goal with people expressing interest in certain activities continuing throughout the year.”

The University of British Columbia created Thrive several years ago, and Queen’s HR adopted it with the goal of promoting positive mental health and resiliency among staff, faculty and students. Ms. Downey estimates half of the cases she deals with involve mental health, and those tend to result in longer medical absences from work.

Thrive organizers consulted broadly at Queen’s and the local community to come up with an exciting series of events. Through the activities, participants could relieve stress and learn more about the various services available to them. Departments and units also hosted their own Thrive events, with activities such as “bring you pet to work day” and a video gaming hour.

“We definitely got a lot positive feedback. People told us that Thrive helped them try new things and learn more about what people across campus do to relieve stress,” Ms. Reed says. “I played dodgeball, which I never would have tried otherwise.”

The week drew to a close on Nov. 6 with the installation of two yellow benches on Queen’s main and west campuses. Physical Plant Services refurbished the benches and donated them along with two new red maple trees that are planted nearby.

Thrive organizers borrowed the bench idea from the Friendship Bench project that students at Carleton University started to honour their friend Lucas Fiorella, who suffered from depression and committed suicide in 2014. The bright yellow benches are intended to raise awareness of mental health-related issues and help remove the stigma that surrounds the topic.

“The Thrive benches, which really brighten up campus, invite people to take a moment and have a conversation with a friend or co-worker,” Ms. Johnston says.

HR is currently evaluating the activities, which will inform planning for next year’s Thrive week. People who signed up for events will receive an email within the next couple of weeks asking for their feedback. If you didn’t attend an event but would like to offer your feedback, please send an email to Emily Johnston, HR Customer Service Representative.