By Any Media Necessary: Mapping Youth and Participatory Politics

To Write Love on Her Arms


To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA) is a non-profit organization with the mission of “presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide. TWLOHA exists to encourage, inform, inspire, and invest directly into treatment and recovery.”

TWLOHA started in 2006 when founder Jamie Tworkowski shared online his experience supporting a friend who was struggling with depression, addiction, and self-injury. In addition to writing about their experiences, a t-shirt was created and proceeds from sales went to funding his friend’s treatment and recovery. The story spread rapidly across the Internet and people started to contribute their own stories, as well as inquiring about ways to help spread the messages of support and hope.

Through partnerships with musicians, music festivals and tours (such as the Vans Warped Tour), physical and mental health organizations, schools, and by maintaining strong connections through social media, TWLOHA has expanded from one story to an organization that coordinates multiple campaigns to connect people with support groups, hotlines, treatment centers, counseling services, and other informational and intervention resources.

TWLOHA has school-based programs and campaigns at both the high school and college/university level. The Storytellers Campaign is an initiative for high school students and faculty advisors to coordinate two-month campaigns to promote awareness and resources for mental health at their school and help raise funds for TWLOHA. The University Chapters, or UChapters, are a network of over 100 student organizations on college and university campuses that organize around the goals of TWLOHA, meeting regularly and coordinating events to support students and local communities.

Designed to help people who want to facilitate and engage with these conversations in their own circles and communities (e.g., parents, religious or community leaders, counselors, teachers, students), the MOVE Conference is a 1-2 day discussion-based seminar led by licensed mental health counselors. These seminars help educate and speak to the stigma, silence, and potential resources around issues like anxiety, depression, addiction, self-injury, suicide, eating disorders, and other physical and mental health illnesses.

Supporters of TWLOHA can also get involved and advocate for the organization and its mission through social media and the Street Team. For example, the Fears vs. Dreams online photo campaign chronicles people’s responses to the questions: “What is your biggest fear?” and “What is your greatest dream?” People participate in this Tumblr campaign by submitting images of themselves holding up their responses to these questions, validating individual stories and experiences and building a supportive community in which they belong.

TWLOHA visibility also is supported through help from musicians, bands, performers, and athletes. For example, Heavy and Light, the organization’s flagship music event has featured performances from Jon Foreman (of Switchfoot), Christina Perri, Now, Now, Noah Gunderson, Tristan Prettyman, Mary Lambert, Anis Mojgani, The Summer Set, and many others. Heavy and Light usually takes place annually at the Orlando House of Blues, but has previously been organized into a music tour (with the help of funding from Chase Bank), and in 2014, was in both Los Angeles, CA and Orlando, FL. The events raise awareness about mental health issues, encourage those who need help to seek it, and provide people with lists of local resources where they can get help.

Hope Goes Surfing is TWLOHA’s campaign “to bring a message of hope, help, and recovery to the surfing community,” coordinated in partnership with one of the world’s top surfers, CJ Hobgood. This campaign has the same mission and goals as the larger organization, with a focus on those in the surfing community.

For more information about the organization or to learn more about mental health issues and resources, visit the To Write Love on Her Arms website.
Contributed by Diana Lee on 7/16/14

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