‘E’mail program sends positive messages

Melissa Flaxman & Inaara Tajuddin, staff reporters

Erika’s Lighthouse, South’s depression-awareness club, recently launched “E”mail, a program in which students and staff can send positive, free, handwritten messages to others by depositing provided postcards into a box outside the SAO.

Lisa Richardson, Erika’s Lighthouse co-sponsor, explained that the program was meant to give South students an opportunity to come together while reaching out to those who might not be recognized for their actions.

Although the club’s primary purpose is to address issues of depression, Richardson wants to clarify the intention of the program.

“‘E’mail is not geared toward depressed kids in the slightest,” Richardson said. “It’s a matter of knowing that people are out there even to celebrate our good things and not just see our bad days and that we’re not alone. That’s really an important thing that I think everybody needs to feel.”

According to senior Matt Pelos, Erika’s Lighthouse member, other types of passes that are delivered to classes tend to have a negative connotation. Pelos said “E”mail can change the attitude about receiving passes.

“I personally wanted “E”mail to be a way for people to get the notion that positive thoughts and positive words are a lot stronger than any other potentially negative problems,” Pelos said.

Senior Haley Tuchman, Erika’s Lighthouse member, believes a goal of the program is to reach out to others.

“With ‘E’mail, in particular, it’s a good way for you to reach out to someone if you notice that they’re having a bad day,” Tuchman said. “It’s a way to let people know you care about them.”

The organization decided to have all postcards screened by club sponsors to ensure that no one abuses the system, according to David  Hartman, Erika’s Lighthouse co-sponsor.

“There are going to be kids who are tempted to use the system for less than appropriate reasons, so I wanted to make sure we had a system in place to catch those things so that somebody doesn’t get an inappropriate ‘E’mail,” Hartman said. “But, because we’ve developed a system to catch that, it’s not going [to happen].”

Hartman explains that at this point there have been no negative messages written and that overall, he is happy with the program. In the future, however, Hartman does see potential for the program to continuously grow and expand.

“We are going to be successful when we can start to see the numbers of kids who get ‘E’mails from people that they don’t know very well increase,” Hartman said.

According to Hartman, there have been several hundred “E”mails distributed so far. What may be preventing students from sending even more ‘E’mails is students’ lack of understanding of the new program, according to Richardson.

“It’s just a [matter of] perspective,” Richardson said. “It’s been very successful in its way but not at all yet what we want it to be.”

The idea for ‘E’mail was originally proposed last year by Ann Cleven, class of 2011 graduate, who thought receiving messages in class would be a good way to improve a person’s day.

“I hope “E”mail will help spread the message of Erika’s Lighthouse throughout the school,” Cleven said.  “It’s not only a way to say something nice to a friend, but it is also a way for people to support Erika’s Lighthouse.”

Cleven is one of the founders of Glenbrook South’s branch of Erika’s Lighthouse as well. The club started at South because depression is common and many people struggle with it.

In an Oracle-conducted survey of 275 students, 72 percent of students said they know someone affected by depression, or they are personally affected themselves.

“I personally have faced battles with depression in my family, as my brother committed suicide when he was fifteen years old and a student at GBS,” Cleven said. “It really bothered me that my brother suffered with an illness that is so common, and yet depression is an issue that is not talked about.  I wanted more people to become educated on the issue and gain an understanding of it so no one has to silently suffer like my brother did.”