Friday, February 12th marked the 11th anniversary of the P.S. I Love You Day campaign—a day recognized by OHS students and staff alike.
P.S. I Love You Day is an organization that’s mission is to educate and spread kindness, but the story of the organization’s origin is one mixed with grief—established in response to the suicide of the founders’ father, a police officer for the NYPD, in 2010. Since the unexpected death of their father, sisters Jaimie and Brooke DiPalma dedicate time to speaking about the importance of mental health awareness and their organization.
In a school year unlike any other, the P.S. I Love You Day campaign took on new meaning at OHS. This year’s theme was “Together We Will Rise.” Thus, students, staff, and members of the OHS community worked together to overcome challenges on this day. Although the activities that are normally planned for the day were not able to be arranged due to pandemic restrictions, the Youth 2 Youth club, OHS faculty, and students were still able to spread kindness. Participating students and staff were encouraged to wear purple which, according to the mission statement listed on the organization’s website, is symbolic of “stand[ing] up against bullying,” and the determination to “help end depression” and “ultimately suicide,”—a show of solidarity despite the distance between many OHS students and staff on the day. The hope, as stated on the organization’s website, is that participants can “walk around your community, school, or work office and see a sea of purple.”
Born from a connection to Jaime DiPalma, her college roommate, Ms. Davide, a math teacher at OHS, brought P.S. I Love You Day alive at the high school. When asked about how she thought P.S. I Love You Day would be received in light of recent global events, Ms. Davide stressed the importance of mental health awareness during these complex times. “I think this year more than ever, mental health awareness is important to address and talk about. Many people, including students, are hiding behind their cameras so it is important to reach out to our neighbors and check on each other. It has been a tough year for everyone, but knowing you are not alone is very important. I think sharing these important stories of individuals and their mental health battles helps others who may be struggling realize they can combat their struggles.” Ms. Davide’s words ring true. A recent NIH study reported that approximately 3.2 million adolescents in the United States aged 12-17 have experienced at least one major depressive episode. Ms. Davide also emphasized how kindness should be spread throughout the world, “Everyone is struggling with their own battles, so it is extremely important to demonstrate kindness to others in the hope that their day will be changed for the better.”
While OHS students were either hybrid or fully virtual at the time of the event, this did not stop kindness from permeating into each learning model. Kindness cards, which encouraged the finder to participate in an act of kindness, were distributed. Near the main office, students could find a table where a purple ribbon and a bag of goodies were being handed out to students in addition to information about mental health. At the table, students were encouraged to write nice things on the P.S. I Love You Day banner, which was available for all to see and interact with. For virtual students, P.S. I Love You Day looked a little different. Although there weren’t goodie bags or interactions with students at the table, there was a Jamboard available, and with it, a chance for students and teachers to spread positivity and inspire one another. Even behind the stillness of a computer screen, OHS students were able to share what was on their minds. Some wrote notes of encouragement such as “No matter what is happening in your life, keep pushing forward. This is just a chapter, not the whole story” while others wrote notes of gratitude, “thank you. like genuinely thank you for being here,” their notes reflecting the range of emotions students have felt during this school year.
Today, P.S. I Love You Day is celebrated in schools across America and around the world, the organization’s work on spreading kindness, mental health awareness, and bullying prevention resonating with many students. From profound loss, came a rallying cry in schools across America—P.S. I Love You. From the commitment of Ms. Davide to honoring this day at OHS, a chance for light to shine at the school in the darkness of a pandemic.