North Salem High School junior Gabby Pelosi has brought kindness and mental health awareness to her peers by introducing P.S. I Love You Day to the district.
Pelosi said she learned about P.S. I Love You Day when the founder spoke at a leadership conference through the school last year.
“I was just really inspired by the message,” Pelosi said. “North Salem is so welcoming to mental health and talking about mental health, which I just think is so amazing. I’m so grateful and thankful that I go to a school and I live in a community that was so willing to help me and help me promote this idea.”
P.S. I Love You Day was created by Brooke and Jaimie DiPalma after they lost their father to suicide. In remembrance, they encourage people to wear purple on the second Friday in February to spread mental health awareness.
“On this day, we ask everyone to wear purple to stand up against bullying, help end depression and ultimately prevent suicide.
We hope that on this day you walk around your community, school, or work office and see a sea of purple. We hope that you hear nothing but positive messages that make you feel special, loved, and remind you that you are never alone,” according to its mission statement.
Pelosi said that she wanted to start a conversation about how kindness and mental health are connected.
“I didn’t know it was going to become such a big thing,” Pelosi said. “I just envisioned people at the middle school-high school wearing purple on the day and then maybe people would have a conversation about mental health. Then it would get them thinking and they’d associate purple with mental health and being kind. Now it’s just become this huge thing which I’m just so grateful for and it’s really amazing.”
She and members of North Salem’s mental health club, The Warr;ors, and members of Peer Leadership volunteered to bring the message of kindness to PQ Elementary School.
In the week leading up to P.S. I Love You Day, the volunteers taught lessons in kindness lessons by having them cut out purple hearts and writing words of kindness on them.
They also made quilts out of purple sticky notes with words of kindness and drawings.
The older students wrote letters of kindness to someone special, like their mom or dad.
They also practiced kindness toward their classmates.
“This is something I’ve done in school and summer camp. You give everyone a piece of paper and they write their name on it and then the papers get passed around the room and each kid writes something nice about the person on the paper,” Pelosi said. “It’s a really great activity for kids to just think about nice things to say other people because positive words like that have such a big impact from other students.”
Spanish teacher Erin White agreed.
“It’s a wonderful program. I think it’s important to stop and think about all the great qualities that other kids have that we don’t always say on a daily basis because they’re so busy learning, doing their work in school and doing other things, so I think it’s such a nice opportunity to kind of pause and take a minute (to think) about all the great qualities everybody has,” White said.
Dr. Donald Merriman, PQ school psychologist, said that he thought the P.S. I Love You Day activities were great.
He said the younger students were receptive to the high school students coming in and teaching them. He also said that the message of kindness fits in at PQ, which encourages kindness at every corner of the school.
Pelosi said she hopes the older students will take their lessons of kindness to the middle school.
“They’ll think of treating other people nicely and saying nice things to others and treating them kindly,” Pelosi said. “I think that’s my main goal for them. Maybe the fourth- and fifth-graders will take it a step further when they go into middle school and start talking about mental health.
“PQ does amazing things with kindness so the kids are already thinking about it, this is just another layer to all the activities they’re doing there.”
In the high school/middle school, Pelosi said she was excited to see a sea of purple.
“At the middle school/high school, I definitely think kindness is something all kids that age, sixth grade to 12th grade, always need to work on because people are not the nicest when you’re in middle school and high school,” Pelosi said.
“I really hope people will think before they say something or they’ll think, ‘Maybe I should just sit with that kid that’s by themselves at lunch’ or ‘Maybe I will think about how I don’t know what’s going on in someone else’s life.’ We always talk about this in school now, that one in five kids is struggling with mental health issues, so it’s always something people have to consider and I hope with this day people will think ‘Oh, my gosh, everyone’s wearing purple, everyone supports this message that you’re never alone’.”
She said the Warr;ors have been selling purple bracelets with the message “P.S. I Love You” and “Your Story Is Worth Telling” and the PTO had sold about 400 purple T-shirts to support the day.
She said although it’s ambitious for its first year, she hopes it starts a conversation.
“Talking about mental health is OK and being kind is an amazing thing,” Pelosi said.