“Rescue is possible,” the organization To Write Love on Her Arms tells its followers. To Write Love on Her Arms is a non-profit organization and movement devoted to ending the stigma surrounding mental illness, suicide, self-injury and addiction. With roots dating back to 2006, To Write Love on Her Arms has helped dozens of people find hope in their lives to keep living, fighting and loving. What began as an effort to raise money for a friend’s drug rehabilitation treatment grew into a worldwide movement. In 2006, Renee Yohe was 19 years old. She was a self-injurer, depressed, had attempted suicide, and was addicted to cocaine, marijuana, pills and alcohol. She felt hopeless and alone. She was in need of a rehabilitation program, but was denied treatment for being “too great of a risk.”
Instead, for the next five days, Jamie Tworkowski and his friends became her hospital, determined that love could heal her. In order to raise money for her treatment, they created t-shirts and a MySpace page to sell them. The bands Switchfoot and Anberlin were among the first to wear these shirts and spread the message to their fans.
As days passed, the founders learned that Renee’s story was not unique, as dozens upon dozens of youth e-mailed, messaged, and commented on the MySpace page, sharing their stories of struggle and desperation. What began as a movement for one person grew into a movement for many people. Jamie saw these cries for help, and with his friends, founded the organization To Write Love on Her Arms to raise awareness and end the stigma surrounding depression, addiction, suicide and self-injury.
Since 2006, their organization has exploded in popularity. They have been featured on NBC’s nightly news and have visited dozens of colleges, universities, high schools and concerts. In 2008, Hot Topic stores began to carry their t-shirts, and the organization had a booth at every stop on the 2008 Vans Warped Tour.
Also in 2008, arguably the organization’s most important accomplishment occurred: Renee Yohe, the heart and soul of this organization, celebrated two years of sobriety. She has since published a book, titled Purpose for the Pain, which chronicles her struggles with addiction, self-injury and depression. It can be purchased on the website of To Write Love on Her Arms.
According to the To Write Love on Her Arms website, approximately two out of three people who suffer with depression do not get treatment; untreated depression is the leading cause of suicide, and suicide is the third leading cause of death among youth.
The organization now aims to raise awareness about depression, suicide, self-injury, and addiction, and to serve as the bridge between suffering and treatment, claiming on their website that they are “not a 24-hour helpline.not trained professionals” and that they hope “to serve as a bridge to help”. To Write Love on Her Arms connects the suffering with organizations in their area for help. They have a small amount of people who individually respond to the messages they receive from youth all over the world explaining the emotional pain and turmoil they are experiencing.
An abundance of musicians have joined the cause by sporting the t-shirts at concerts and spreading the word, such as Paramore, Copeland, Thrice, Jimmy Eat World, underOATH, and more.
The organization’s t-shirts still exist as a fundraiser, except this time a fundraiser for other organizations, such as the National Hopeline Network (1-800-SUICIDE), Teen Challenge, S.A.F.E. (Self Abuse Finally Ends) and the Kids Helpline.
In 2008, due to a cut in government funding and the increase in calls to 1-800-SUICIDE, the National Hopeline Network’s phone bills had become impossible to pay, and the suicide hotline was on the verge of shutting down its services. PostSecret and To Write Love on Her Arms joined forces and recruited their fans to donate money to support Hopeline. To Write Love on Her Arms created t-shirts and sold them, with 100% of the profits going towards the phone bills of Hopeline.
The organization now has a street team of people advocating and promoting To Write Love on Her Arms and offers internships to college students.
Many people have organized To Write Love on Her Arms days, where people write the word “love” on their arms to promote the movement. One of these days will be occurring on Friday, Nov. 13. The event on Facebook has over 600,000 people attending, and all it requires is the word “love” written on one’s arm. Join the movement.
To Write Love on Her Arms is a movement for broken people led by broken people. Stop the bleeding. Love is the movement. Rescue is possible.
For more information about the organization, visit www.twloha.com.
Jenn Halligan is a third-year student majoring in English Education with minors in Spanish and Women’s Studies. She can be reached at JH653435@wcupa.edu.