By M.j. Rawls
Sometimes big things come from small beginnings. In 2006, Jamie Tworkowski wrote a short story about 19-year-old Renee Yohe, who struggled with addiction, depression, self-injury, and attempted suicide. It was an honest account about the five-day period before she went in for treatment. From that short story began a movement that is now a major presence at music festivals such as Warped Tour and Bonnaroo. It's even been touted by bands like Switchfoot and Anberlin. When the world gets dark, you need all the good people you can get to help you along. This is how To Write Love on Her Arms was born.
"I don't remember exactly what I felt but there was certainly an element of writing it for myself, so that i didn't forget this experience that meant a lot to me," Tworkowski remembers. "I couldn't have known what response the story would be met with. It certainly took on a life of its own."
In October 2006, shortly after the short story was released, To Write Love on Her Arms became a non-profit organization. The name of the organization is a play on words itself. The first person the organization helped had been carving the words “fuck up" into her arm. As they helped her, the mantra "to write love on their arms" was born.
The statistics on suicide are startling. According to a recent CDC report, there are about 117 suicides a day, from 1999 to 2014. In recent years, suicides have risen 24%. Tworkowski has some suggestions on how the epidemic can be broken and lives can be impacted for the better.
"It all starts with breaking the silence. There's a stigma that suggests we can't talk about mental health, but that stigma begins to go away when we begin to be honest about the hard things in life. I think that honesty is the key, along with encouraging people to get (professional) help. We love to point to counseling and treatment and crisis hotlines. There are so many great resources and we've learned that the first step is often the hardest one for people to take. But we've come to believe it's worth it."
The first book from Tworkowski, If You Feel Too Much, lets the reader know that it’s OK not to be OK. There’s strength in overcoming the everyday things that may trip you up. Within the TWLOHA website, you will see a bunch of personal testimonials from people in a collective healing sense. The more we are comfortable with being human, the more we can combat things like depression and suicide. We are sure that there are countless stories of many that are thankful of what the organization is done. I asked Tworkowski of a personal story that touched him personally.
“The best moment we ever get to experience, over and over, is meeting someone who says 'I'm still alive because of TWLOHA.' We meet people who stopped by our tent at Warped, and they ended up finally asking for help, or simply having an honest conversation that led to change in their life. We see them down the road, maybe the following summer, or they send a note or email, and that's the stuff that keeps us going. “
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