To write love on her arms
TWLOHA are a non-profit organisation dedicated to finding help for anyone struggling with depression. Amy Claire talks to their UK representative.
Most people in the UK will have heard of Bridgend, the so-called Welsh “suicide town”. Bridgend is a sleepy if pretty little town near the South Wales coast where nothing has ever happened. Last year it played witness to a tragedy: Twenty-three suicides amongst those aged fifteen to thirty in less than a year.
One of them – and I remember the exact moment that I heard about this, being born in Bridgend myself – was just metres from the house where I used to live. This was not an easy thing for me to have to deal with, despite the fact that I no longer live there. But I found my way through it with the help of a few very good friends. I will never forget what they did for me, or how they alone were willing to try to understand; and I will also never forget how much good working for a magazine did me – I was able to find my escape, and to live a different life whilst I was writing.
Sadly, though, not everyone who goes through a rough patch has a good support network, and that’s why I feel so privileged to be sitting here today writing about an organisation called “To Write Love On Her Arms” (TWLOHA), an American non-profit organisation “dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide. TWLOHA exists to encourage, inform, inspire and also to invest directly into treatment and recovery.”
In the USA, where it was launched, TWLOHA has become a youth phenomenon, with young people from all walks of life joining together in support of a common cause; standing up to say that they care about the problems, and people, that governments often tend to neglect. For the people TWLOHA supports, their help, and their faith, is often a life-line through the blackest days of their lives. This is, in fact, how TWLOHA was launched, in Florida, in 2006. Founder Jamie Tworkowski dedicated five days of his life to showing one depressed woman how special she was; treating her like a princess, and letting her know that there is someone who cares. It’s the kind of thing that we would all like to think that we’d do, but that most people would never have the guts to.
When I asked Olivia, their UK representative, who it is that TWLOHA works with, she told me “we don’t work with a specific group of people, we work with everyone!”, explaining that “we hear from people every day for all sorts of different reasons – people considering suicide, people who are worried that their friends or family are self-harming or suicidal, and also people who don’t know much about self-harm, suicide, depression or addiction but would like to learn.”
With a motto like “Rescue Is Possible”, however, it’s hard to constantly live up to expectations. Yet Olivia tells me that TWLOHA believes in their slogan wholeheartedly, in every case. “Depression is very treatable; a very real hope exists in the face of these issues. We’ve met people who are getting the help they need, sitting across from a counsellor for the first time, stepping into treatment, or reaching out to a suicide hotline in a desperate moment. Being diagnosed with depression and having the need for counselling are difficult realisations, but once this is understood then the correct steps can be taken to ensure recovery. We believe in the word ‘community’, that as humans we were not meant to do life alone. We need other people to listen, to understand us and to help us. We see community as a vital ingredient in the recipe for rescue.”
It’s good for me, personally, to know that there are people out there who care what happens to the young people of my quiet little hometown. Olivia and Jamie did in fact visit Bridgend last year, during the Cardiff stop on the Rocket Summer UK tour, which TWLOHA was a part of.
“We just walked around. The streets were so quiet, and I remember walking down one small street and coming to a bridge over a river in the centre of the town – it was so pretty, all lit up and there was a beautiful church on the opposite side. I remember thinking how strange it was that I could be experiencing this feeling in a place that was filled with sadness; that just a few miles away someone could be thinking about taking their life. I wished I could have taken the feeling of hopelessness from every one of those young people.”
They left some information about TWLOHA behind them in Bridgend, “sowing a seed of hope in a field of sorrow. In Bridgend it may not be such a huge coincidence to meet someone who has been affected by the issues TWLOHA deals with, but one thing I have learned since being involved with TWLOHA is that these issues affect so many more people than we realise.”
So, I guess that what I’m hoping to achieve for TWLOHA through writing this is a support-base in the UK. I hope that everyone feels the way I do about this; that people need help, and that we’re here to offer it to them. TWLOHA may find most of its money from high-profile supporters such as Paramore’s Hayley Williams, Evanesence’s Amy Lee and bands like Forever Sickest Kids and The Rocket Summer, but the people who really matter in this movement are the people out there who’re willing to support a friend in need, and light their way through the nighttime of their lives.