Tuesday, May 21, 2013

To Write Love on Her Arms: Non-Profit Spreads Message of Hope (INTERVIEW)

"Come to me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke on you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest to your souls" (Matthew 11:28-29).

To Write Love on Her Arms is a organization pushing a message of hope for the downtrodden, a pick me up that goes out offering encouragement to all those suffering with depression, self-abuse, and other issues.

"To Write Love on Her Arms is a non-profit movement 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," read their website.

Chad Moses, a representative of To Write Love on Her Arms, answered a few questions via email about the powerful impact this organization is leaving on the world.

TWLOHA will be at Skate and Surf Music Festival, how does the organization plan to reach people?
Moses: Skate and Surf is perfect because people are going to be there. All of our programs and efforts, since the very beginning, have been geared towards fostering honest conversation and that is only possible when people feel comfortable. Music is a place where a lot of people feel most valued and welcomed. The other attendees and fans may feel like family, and the venue in a way can feel like home.

We don't force hope or a message onto people- we simply show up and hang out and get to know people to whatever level they feel like sharing. Our approach is invitational rather than aggressive. We know that the people walking in through the gates each represent stories in progress, and we just hope to be an audience to those stories.

Since the organization's inception, how many people could you say have been directly affected in a positive way by TWLOHA?
It is impossible to answer. Since 2006, we have been able to read and responded to over 170,000 messages over email and social media platforms and we have been able to give over a million dollars directly to avenues for treatment and recovery. We have 1.3 million followers on Facebook and 257,000 folks keeping track with us on Twitter.

But the most significant number in our minds is One. The One conversation that we may never know happens between someone who is struggling and their trusted friend or counselor. … The One phone call placed to a suicide crisis line that allowed One more person to wake up the next morning.

How did TWLOHA get as big as it did, and why did the music scene gravitate so heavily to you guys?
People are flying our banner in wildly unexpected places. We have high school students supporting us in countries we've never been to before like South Africa. A couple of years ago we received a message from Dubai from some folks who wanted us to speak out there. … It seems like word of mouth has been the greatest tool in spreading this movement.

Music is … just a creative form of word of mouth. Artists from all over the world have surprised us by wearing shirts on stage or speaking honestly about the issues. … Our favorite songs, or albums, or artists likely hold that spot in our hearts because they remind us of something that is true or makes us feel less alone.

What is the group's main goal for 2013 and the future?
Our goal has always been the hope that we can change the numbers. For most attendees of festivals of this market, suicide represents the third highest cause of death, and we know that untreated depression is the leading cause of suicide. But the most alarming statistic that we've encountered is that 2 out of 3 people who struggle with depression never seek help for it. These numbers represent names and faces of people close to us, or they may even represent our own stories.

How widespread is self-abuse and the issues surrounding it?
We have found over the past several years that the principle battle we fight is not against behavior (be it self-injury, or addiction, or thoughts of suicide, or anything else) but more so against the sense of isolation that allows issues like self-injury to thrive. The fight is against stigma and that fear silences conversation.

Self-injury is nothing new in the spectrum of humanity. It affects individuals all over the world regardless of age, status, geography, faith, gender, or ethnicity. … Organizations like The Self-Injury Foundation have reported that between 14-24 percent of adolescents and young adults have self-injured at some point. Additionally, there [are] an estimated 4 percent of adults who occasionally self-injure.

The numbers suggest that males and females report similar rates. … How people perceive self-injury and how self-injury actually presents itself is rather different. As more conversation arises from those who do struggle or have struggled, we will learn more about who does it and what is effective in treating it.

What kind of services does TWLOHA offer and is there anything the organization shies away from?
To Write Love on Her Arms is not a helpline or counseling agency. We often say that we hope to be a bridge to connect people who are looking for help to that help. … The individual and their safety as well as their sense of dignity and belonging take precedence.

Treatment is always, and most effectively, a choice. Because of that, we make it our goal to lay out options and various avenues for people to seek help. If one method doesn't mesh, then we are here to encourage you to try another route. You can find a list of such resources at our FIND HELP page at twloha.com.

Anything else to add?
We want to say that if you are reading this and it hits close to home, know that you are in good company. Know that your story is one of immense beauty and we are glad that you are here. Don't give up! We want to remind you that hope is real and that help is real. There are people out there who have been where you are and their story is continuing. In the same spirit, there are other people who have dedicated their lives to making sure that you feel safe and valued and heard. You are worth the time it takes to tell your story. If you feel like you have run out of options, please visit us at twloha.com and take a look at our FIND HELP page.

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