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Oceanside High School unites for mental health awareness

Students, staff celebrate PS I Love You Day

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Hundreds of inspirational messages were sent around Oceanside High School on Feb. 12 as students, staff members and administrators sought a sense of togetherness at a time when many people feel disconnected.

The school took part in PS I Love You Day, a Long Island-based program that works to raise awareness of the importance of mental health and reduce bullying by focusing on positive messaging and togetherness.

The OHS School Mental Health & Wellness task force used PS I Love You Day to kick off another new initiative, Mental Health March Mondays, which will focus on the importance of mental health while offering resources to those in need.

Using the app Padlet, an online bulletin board, students shared hundreds of inspirational messages with their peers school-wide. In-person students and faculty also donned purple shirts to emphasize mental health awareness and spread an anti-bullying message. The messages were also displayed on a big screen in the school’s main lobby.

“I think the students did a beautiful job reaching out to those who may be struggling,” Associate Principal Joelle Mazun said. “. . . Students saw and heard their peers sharing messages of hope and providing important information of who to reach out to in a time of need. Overall, the day was truly wonderful.”

Students in Sara Dowler’s Redefining Mental Health class joined the cause by creating a public service announcement that was broadcast in all of the classrooms during morning announcements. The video promoted the day and spread the word that no one is ever alone in a time of need at OHS.

On the virtual message board, students and staff members shared inspirational lines from songs or poems or their own work to motivate them while underscoring the theme that resources are there for those in need.

OHS junior Dani Cohen said she felt good “to be a part of something so special,” and noted that she filmed the video to inform her peers about the event. “I feel the message is so important for a school community because we need more kindness in the world,” Cohen said, “and PS I Love You Day is all about kindness and love.”

OHS junior Logan Hopper said he was grateful to be able to spread kindness and raise awareness of those struggling with mental health issues. He partnered with the school’s Youth Council to promote a message that all students are loved and have a place to turn if they are struggling.

“It’s so important to spread awareness about mental health because it can literally save someone’s life,” Hopper said. “So many kids my age struggle with mental health issues, but don’t know where to go for help. This day is important in erasing the stigma associated with mental health.”

Mazun said that inclusion was an important facet of the event, which is why Padlet was essential in helping students who were learning virtually to take part. She added that the premise of PS I Love You Day is to promote togetherness in the school community, and though it’s hard with some students working at home and others in person, Padlet helped promote a sense of belonging.

Additionally, Mazun said, she was proud to be a part of the task force and found it “amazing” to see what students and staff members could accomplish when collaborating, even when some are remote.

“This building has come together,” she said. “We have students and staff writing messages in sidewalk chalk in the front of our building, giving support to one another on our Padlet, and showing unity by wearing purple. There definitely has been an overall sense of togetherness in a time when people can feel disconnected. OHS is a true family.”