NORTH BABYLON, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – A Long Island woman is speaking out and spreading a message of kindness and love.
She wants young people struggling with life stresses to know you don’t have to suffer in silence.
Kindness is in the curriculum at Belmont Elementary School in North Babylon, where for weeks kids are taught the power of positivity. It all leads up to “P.S. I Love You Day,” a movement now in 240 schools, started by a 23-year-old Long Islander after her father took his own life.
“I lost my dad ten years ago,” DiPalma told students.
Instead of sinking into despair, DiPalma launched a day to teach kids how to get help, to prevent suicide, to recognize depression, to stand up to bullying.
Wherever she goes, hugs prove the message is needed.
“Everyone hears you, and you’re important,” DiPalma told one student.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death in young Americans. Mental illness afflicts one in five.
“I personally would definitely call this a crisis,” DiPalma told CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff. “It’s such a hush topic and P.S. I Love You Day could not be louder … I talk about advocating for yourself and boosting your family and friends’ support and really seeking care and that’s the key thing.”
Kids learn good deeds matter. Their kindness is chronicled in journals.
“If someone’s having a bad day, you can lift their spirit with being kind to them,” said fifth grader Jake Cellura.
“If they are down, you can make them happy. If they are happy, you can make them extra happy,” said fifth grader Amari Harris.
“Kindness matters. And it’s kindness for life,” said principal Valerie Jackson.
“If they see a child playing by themselves on the playground, go over there and play with them,” said teacher Gina Petraglia.
It was a sea of purple – the P.S. I Love You Day color – in high schools, too, where DiPalma reminds teens they need not suffer alone.
DiPalma can’t personally be in every school, but her message is shared in schools as far away as Taiwan. The idea is not only can kindness can change someone’s day, but can change someone’s life.