Almost one year ago, a member of Saint John Vianney Center’s Suicide Prevention and Awareness committee was visiting Millersville University. Having seen a “Josh’s Bench” on the campus, they set out to find a way to have one donated to Bishop Shanahan High School. Their goal was to bring awareness to mental health and suicide prevention to the broader school community.

On May 23, the Bishop Shanahan school community unveiled the donated bench, which was installed as part of the Josh’s Benches for Awareness Corporation initiative. Made possible through St. John Vianney Center’s Suicide Prevention and Awareness Collaboration, it sits at the athletic entrance on the school’s campus.

“Bishop Shanahan values the opportunity to collaborate with the St. John Vianney Center on Chester County’s first Josh’s Bench,” said Dr. Robert Moran, principal. “Supporting mental health and bringing increased awareness to suicide prevention and mental wellness has been a priority for our community for many years now,

Over 100 benches have been donated by the Florida-based non-profit throughout the country as part of its mental health awareness campaign.

Moran says the school’s efforts to support the mental health of students are robust and include “specialized classroom curriculum to a designated Mental Health Coordinator in the Guidance Office to student-led extracurricular clubs and activities.” The school also has faculty and staff trained in teen mental health first aid.

“Our hope is that this gives every student, faculty member and visitor that encounters the bench the light that there’s always hope and always help,” said David Shellenberger, president, St. John Vianney Center.

Joann DiFederico, a member of St. John Vianney Center’s Suicide Prevention and Awareness Collaboration and parent of Bishop Shanahan alums, says she is “blessed” to be part of this initiative professionally and personally.

“We work to end the stigma and improve understanding of mental health.”

The St. John Vianney Center says it is especially grateful to Bishop Shanahan High School for allowing a bench to be donated. The hope is to set the tone for other schools to explore the possibility of having one donated to their own campuses.

The center’s goal is to donate a Josh’s Bench to every secondary school in the five-county archdiocese.

“We’re just very appreciative of Bishop Shanahan’s openness to accept this kind of donation,” said Shellenberger

“The bench will serve as a visible reminder of the love and support available to all in our community,” said Moran.

Several members of the St. John Vianney Center were on hand for the May 23 unveiling of Josh’s Bench on Bishop Shanahan High School’s campus. From left to right: Jim Friend; Regina Cummings; Joann DiFederico; Karen Cox; David Shellenberger, president; Linda Rava; Lisa Rossi; and Jodi Petrosian. (Dan McCarty)