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State Ed Dept Launches Phone Line With Pep Talks from PA Students  

The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) on Wednesday unveiled “You’ve Got a Friend in Pennsylvania”—an automated phone number that anyone can call to hear pep talks, jokes, and words of encouragement from Pennsylvania students.

“The holiday season can be a time when people struggle with their mental health, and sometimes we can all use a little pick-me-up,” said Secretary of Education Dr. Khalid N. Mumin. “‘You’ve Got a Friend in Pennsylvania’ was developed to spread cheer, promote resiliency, and encourage self-care. Users of all ages, backgrounds, and walks of life—both in the commonwealth and beyond—are encouraged to call the line anytime they need a pep talk.”

Callers can access the line at (717) 772-4737 and can select from menu options to hear advice, encouragement, and jokes from early elementary through high school students.

The fully automated phone line features pre-recorded messages from students in grades K-12 from across Pennsylvania. The name, school, and location of the child featured on the recording are not shared with callers, and all submissions are captured and added by Commonwealth employees.

DVJournal tried the line and heard some kids tell jokes, such as, “Why did the chicken cross the road?” (To get to the other side) and “Where do pencils go on vacation?” (Pennsylvania).

The advice option told us: “I just want you to know there’s always someone willing to listen to you.”

And on the pep talk line, kids said, “You’re kind, you’re smart, you’re beautiful, you’re loved,” and “You’ve got this. Keep going.”

Taj Magruder, a PDE spokesperson, claimed there were no costs involved with the project because it was done over Microsoft Teams.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 64 percent of people struggling with mental illness say their conditions worsen around the holidays. It can be due to several factors, including stress, loneliness, financial worries, shortened daylight hours, or increased substance use.

And suicides are on the increase, especially among older people.

The National Center for Health Statistics said there were nearly 50,000 suicides last year, up 2.6 percent from the prior year. The 2022 suicide rate of 14.3 per 100,000 Americans is the highest since 1941.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) recommends the following strategies to support mental health around the holidays:

  • paying attention to your feelings;
  • developing a plan for when you are feeling stressed, sad, or lonely;
  • practicing self-care;
  • connecting with community; supporting others;
  • recognizing seasonal mood changes;
  • avoiding alcohol and drugs;
  • and knowing when to seek help.

Perhaps a child’s voice telling a silly joke might bring a smile to a listener’s face.

If you need immediate support, contact the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by calling or texting 988.

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