Supporters of To Write Love on Her Arms use their bodies to spread the message. It is a non-profit organization focused on helping those suffering from depression, addiction, and suicidal thoughts with inspiration and support. (CU Independent illustration/Molly Maher)
A new movement to encourage awareness and treatment of suicide sweeping through campus is leaving an unusual mark on participants’ limbs: The word “love” written on their arms.
“To Write Love on Her Arms Day” is one day out of the year where people share the message that they support and love those going through depression and recovery through visual symbols of support, namely the aforementioned arm signing.
Rich Sullivan, the head of music and events for the larger “To Write Love on Her Arms” organization, said their purpose is to help those who are coping with depression as much as possible.
“We’re a non-profit movement and we’re dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for those struggling with depression, addiction and suicide,” Sullivan said. “We exist to inform and inspire people and then we also try as much as we can to invest into people’s treatment.”
The name for the organization comes from a seemingly ordinary story. When the founders met 19-year-old Renee, she was a cocaine addict struggling with depression. After she carved the words “F*** up” into her arm, the founders of the organization wanted her to believe and realize that she was loved, and decided to find a way to show her.
Sullivan said one of the real problems victims face is the guilt they feel, causing them to suffer in private.
“These things people struggle with exist in some dark places of their life and it’s usually because of the shame of self-injury or addiction and we don’t believe it is something attached to the person’s identity or who they are,” Sullivan said. “We’re trying to show people it’s OK and it doesn’t change your value or the fact that you’re loved. And encourage people to feel OK talking about these things.”
TWLOHA has gained lots of support starting in 2006. The group uses several different methods to spread their message. For one, it has gained a lot momentum with social networking sites. MySpace alone has over 340,000 members. Also, they sell their merchandise in “Hot Topic,” where all of the proceeds go to their foundation.
Another medium the group uses to get their message out is music. They have worked with bands like Switchfoot, Anberlin, Paramore, The Rocket Summer, Underoath and Forever the Sickest Kids among others.
“Music as a vehicle works well because it carries the message to a lot of people. It’s very powerful and it has the ability to move people,” Sullivan said.
But the real catalyst for the budding organization has been word of mouth. Morgan Churchill, a 21-year-old junior environmental studies major, found out about TWLOHA from a friend.
“My friend told me I should get involved, and after I researched it I realized it was a good program,” Churchill said.
The success of TWLOHA is surprising given the lack of a significant formal structure. Sullivan said TWLOHA was built from the ground up rather than the top down.
“It wasn’t something we started,” he said. “It was a grassroots kind of movement that a small group of people decided to do one day, started some Facebook pages, started telling their friends and started growing and growing.”
As the group gets bigger and bigger, the question that arises is “Why should people care?” Churchill said suicide and depression are issues everyone can relate to.
“Everyone knows someone who has committed suicide or who’s cut themselves. People need to know about it and be aware,” she said.
For others who have come into closer contact with the actual issues at hand, TWLOHA becomes more vital for survival. Pat Moore, a 19-year-old sophomore business major, said the organization was there in his time of need.
“Two or three years ago I was considering suicide and I had gone through many stages of battling depression. [TWLOHA] helped me get through it,” Moore said.
Sullivan said such feelings are inevitable and people just need to encourage others to love more.
“It’s a symptom of being alive,” he said. “We feel that we’re not responding well to the pain and the brokenness that we experience in life because we feel like we need to hide it and go it alone and that no one will understand it.“
Moore got involved with the TWLOHA street team after his experience, and said he hoped his participation would help others going through similar situations.
“If I get involved maybe I can help someone around the world or even down the street,” Moore said. “I feel like other people don’t need to go through it. I would not wish that upon anyone.”
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Amanda Moutinho at Amanda.firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Victim Assistance bringing on part-time counselor
- Unique student profile: Tony Hawk meets sorority sister
- CU professors to receive engineering award
- Feel the EarthE love
- JV hockey defeats Metro State