Each month, we have the privilege of featuring an organization set out to make a positive impact on the world. With National Suicide Prevention Month being in September, there’s no better time to highlight a non-profit dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide. To Write Love On Her Arms exists to encourage, inform, inspire, and also to invest directly into treatment and recovery.
TWLOHA is our Featured Cause for September so all purchases made from customers that do not have a different cause selected will benefit this great cause. If you’d like to sign up for Tix4Cause and automatically set your preferred cause to TWLOHA, click here. We wanted to dive a bit deeper into To Write Love On Her Arms’ mission, how they got started and what’s ahead for them. We sat down with their founder Jamie Tworkowski for a quick chat.
First off, thank you for what you’re doing for people by providing a bridge for those struggling with mental health. It’s incredibly helpful and needed. To get a bit of background, how did To Write Love On Her Arms get started?
TWLOHA began as a story written in an attempt to help a friend who was struggling with the issues that now show up in our mission statement. My friend Renee was denied entry into a treatment center in Orlando back in 2006. I wrote about the five days that followed, made a Myspace page to give the story a home, and started selling t-shirts as a way to help pay for her treatment. The organization was born out of the surprising response to the story and the shirts.
So you began everything by writing a story about the 5 days spent with Renee and then selling t-shirts to help pay for her treatment. Talk a bit about why you decided to write the story and how you sold the t-shirts. What were on the t-shirts and how did it go?
I first wrote the story because I was moved by the experience of getting to know Renee, and I wanted to process and hold on to the story. I also wanted to honor Renee. As for the t-shirts, I actually started by selling them to people in my local community, before a friend helped me create an online store. The original t-shirts were black and had what we now consider our logo on the front in white. They also had the original TWLOHA story printed inside. Through the support of bands and a lot of people sharing on Myspace, we began to hear from people all over, and we started shipping shirts to folks not only across the U.S. but in other countries as well.
In 2007, TWLOHA was born. How was the process of kicking it all off?
We actually got started in 2006. It was just a gradual progression starting with what I mentioned previously. I ended up quitting the sales job I had with Hurley in the summer of 2006 to commit to TWLOHA full-time. For the first year, we were under the umbrella of another non-profit, which gave us a big brother to lean on and learn from. We’ve been building a team and growing ever since.
So TWLOHA is a bridge to connect people in need to treatment to those resources. Talk a little bit about how you work and the process in making these connections.
That process has evolved over time. Because 2 out of 3 people who struggle with depression never get help for it, our focus is first on changing that, which means inviting people to believe that it’s okay to be honest and it’s okay to ask for help. So much of what we do is communication, from social media to our own website to events on college campuses to music festivals and conferences. In terms of connecting people to help at this point, we have a FIND HELP tool on our website. People can simply enter their zip code and get a list of local mental health resources, including free and reduced-cost resources. https://twloha.com/find-help/
Your organization really drives home the importance of community being essential beyond treatment. Talk a little about the importance of community support.
We’ve come to believe that people need other people. Honest conversations and honest relationships are vital to healing and to mental health in general. We all need to be known. When I speak to a crowd, I like to say that not everyone in the room is in need of professional help—some people are and that’s totally okay—but the need for community, the need for a support system, that applies to every person in every room. Pain has a way of causing us to isolate, and there are so many lies that begin to creep in. We need other people to remind us of what’s true, and to remind us we’re not alone.
You guys put importance on having a presence at various concerts, events and festivals. Why do you think being out and about, especially at music events, is important to spread your message, brand and help you provide help to more people?
Some of it simply goes back to the very beginning. Music shows up in the original TWLOHA story. Friends in bands were some of the first people to support us. That turned into us touring with bands and being invited to music festivals. So it’s been a natural progression. We love the common ground between music and mental health, and by that, I primarily mean emotion and honesty. We connect with songs that feel true. We connect with music that expresses how we feel. We think that’s a great starting point to talk about mental health. And we also simply love going where people go, meeting people where they are.
The moment I came across your “You Make Today Better” shirt, I purchased on the spot. Looking at your other items in your store (shirts, hats, tanks, etc.), I can tell you all find importance of building a brand with designs that people will actually want to wear. Do you feel your “swag” has really helped spread your brand and mission?
It definitely has. In addition to the fundraising aspect, we love the stories of how our merch starts conversations. It’s amazing how a few words on a shirt can lead to two strangers talking about things that people often avoid talking about. And with a campaign like “You Make Today Better,” which is our World Suicide Prevention Day campaign, it’s awesome to see a lot of people come together to rally around one statement. And with everything we do, the hope isn’t that people will simply talk about TWLOHA. We want to be a vehicle that helps people share their stories as well.
TWLOHA Official Store: https://store.twloha.com/
What are a few goals that you’d like to hit over the next few years with TWLOHA?
Right now, we’re super focused on this World Suicide Prevention Day campaign. After that, our focus shifts to HEAVY AND LIGHT, which is our annual event at the House of Blues in Orlando. That’s happening on September 21. Big picture, as we look down the road, we want to continue to reduce stigma, continue to bring a message of hope to people all over, and continue to help people get the help they need and deserve. We’ve seen so many surprising doors open over the years, doors that have allowed us to serve unique groups of people. We would love to see that continue. My hope is that we will continue to be creative and bold in doing this work. At the end of the day, it will always be about helping people believe that it’s possible to change and that life is worth living.
Anything else that you’d like to add or want our readers to know?
You can follow us in social places at @twloha or find us online at twloha.com!
Before we sign off, I wanted mention your “Find Help” page again. It's such a great tool that easily connects one in need to free or reduced cost resources in their area. These include counseling, support groups, outpatient services, residential treatment, addiction treatment, crisis support & more.
Find Help Page: https://twloha.com/find-help/