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Students Create a Free Telephone Hotline to Provide Uplifting Messages

Peptoc is the name given to a public art project created by students at West Side Elementary in Healdsburg, California. It’s a free telephone hotline that leaves inspiring and uplifting messages to callers from all over the world.

Once the call connects, you’ll receive the same opening message as everyone else.

“Hi! Welcome to Peptoc, a public art project by West Side school. If you’re feeling mad, frustrated, or nervous, press 1. If you need words of encouragement and life advice, press 2. If you need a pep talk from kindergarteners press 3. If you need to hear kids laughing with delight press 4".  There’s also an option 5 for those who speak Spanish.

Each student leaves an unscripted positive message on the hotline to cheer up those placing a call.

Everyone Receives a Positive Message When They Call

An installation of the students' inspirational Peptoc flyers at a youth art exhibit at Healdsburg Center for the Arts in March 2022.
An installation of the students' inspirational Peptoc flyers at a youth art exhibit at Healdsburg Center for the Arts in March 2022. Photo Credit: Jessica Martin

Just like the board you see here, the messages that callers receive when calling the Peptoc number are filled with plenty of joy, some with laughter, and most of all hope.

Each recording features children in their own voices. “If you’re feeling up high and unbalanced, think of groundhogs,” is one of the messages in the words of encouragement and life advice category.

“If you feel mad or frustrated,” one student says, “you can do what you want to do best or you can do flips on the trampoline.”

One of the most popular options on Peptoc is the kindergartners that say, “You can do it! Keep trying, don’t give up!”

A few other favorite lines from the hotline say, "Be grateful for yourself", “If you’re nervous, go get your wallet and spend it on ice cream and shoes”, "The world is a better place with you in it", "I trust that you can make things right", "It's ok to be different".

It’s this kind of charm that has been leading people to create stories and posts on social media platforms, showing how these positive words immediately impacted them.

Video Credit: @theodoraontas/Instagram.com

Peptoc Is Managing 11,000 Calls Per Hour

Asherah Weiss (left) and Jessica Martin (right), co-creators of Peptoc credit: Bryan Meltz
Asherah Weiss (left) and Jessica Martin (right), co-creators of Peptoc credit: Bryan Meltz

Since Peptoc was started in February 2022 by art teacher Jessica Martin and visiting artist Asherah Weiss, it has received over 500,000 calls.

After the hotline went viral, it received up to 11,000 calls each hour. It’s so busy at times that callers receive a busy signal on both numbers.

Even before everyone wanted to call the line, the project got between 300 to 500 calls per hour. In less than a week, it was getting 5,000 calls per day

Evin Alexander has two children who participated in the recordings. She says that she’s called the hotline repeatedly to stay sane during the changing mask mandates and the war in Ukraine. “Those voices give me hope,” she says.

The Power of Positive Words Is Undeniable

Positive words have the power to shape the mind. They can alleviate stress while improving how you feel.

Peptoc tapped into that power, not only through their hotline but also by putting up handwritten posters in the community for any passer-by to see and feel encouraged.

These kids are inspiring all of us just by taking this kind of positive action to create hope and reminding us that we can do the same for ourselves and others. One of the best ways to start is to implement a personal word replacement program.

Whenever a moment of self-doubt or negative criticism arises, try to rephrase the thought into something positive.  The same result occurs for judgmental thoughts. For example, if you think that your boss is a jerk, you could rephrase it to be, “My boss is an okay person who just wants things done correctly.”

Further, if you sense a loved one or even a stranger is struggling, offer words of encouragement or a good laugh.  You never know how your words could change their day!

Why This is Important Right Now

Martin and Weiss believed that their family and friends would appreciate the cute words of encouragement from their students during these problematic post-pandemic times.

People with lower incomes and those who experience multiple pandemic-related stressors are more likely to experience socioeconomic inequities in mental health. About one-third of adults in the United States reported elevated depression-like systems in 2021. In 2020, that rate was at 27.8%.

In 2019, before the pandemic, that figure was at just 8.5%.

Outside of household income, the most common predictors that someone would experience mental health issues were not being married or having employment.

According to Catherine Ettman, a doctoral candidate at Brown, depression typically peaks following a traumatic event before lowering as time passes. With the COVID pandemic, depression levels remained high after 12 months and grew in the second year of the outbreak.

Even when compared to the Ebola outbreak or traumatic natural disasters, it is clear that COVID has a profound effect on people.

Peptoc Needs Some Help to Keep Going

Telzio sponsors the art project. The company provides business phone systems and hosts the hotline. They typically charge calls by the minute, but they’ve provided one million minutes to use for free.

If you want to call Peptoc, the numbers are (707) 873-7862 or (707) 998-8410. The school had to add a second number because the first one crashed with so many people calling it.

With Peptoc’s popularity, it’s expected that these resources will be gone shortly. West Side Elementary has started fundraising to sustain the project until at least the end of the school year. It’s already raised more than $34,000 of a $40,000 goal.  If you'd like to help them keep the positivity going you can donate to the fundraiser here: https://westsideparentsfef.wixsite.com/felta/donate

What can we learn from this art project? Just a few uplifting words can change your or someone else's entire day.  These kids remind us that there’s always a chance to smile, laugh, and look for the positive things that are happening in our lives.

Extra Words of Encouragement Never Hurt. Be Sure To Share The Peptoc Hotline With All Your Friends!

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