INTERVIEW: TO WRITE LOVE ON HER ARMS

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. Meghan Player spoke to Chad Moses about the organisation, the worldwide support, and what else needs to be done.

By Meghan Player

– How did the organisation begin? What inspired you to start TWLOHA?

To Write Love on Her Arms began 6 years ago simply as an attempt to help a friend and tell her story. Our friend Renee had a long history with issues like drug addiction and self-injury and in February 2006 she decided that she was ready to get help.  Unfortunately, she was initially denied entrance into a treatment facility due to fresh wounds on her arms and the amount of drugs still in her system.  They told her that if she could stay clean for 5 days, that they would welcome her back.

From there a group of friends opted to take her in and help her get clean.  There she met a young man named Jamie and for the next few days Jamie and his friends made it their goal to make her feel less alone and to show her love.  At the end of those five days, Jamie asked Renee how she felt about having the opportunity to tell her story, and she responded saying that if her story could connect with just one person, that there will have been a purpose for all her pain.

The next day, she successfully entered treatment and Jamie decided to post a story about that week on MySpace.  Remembering her scars he titled it “To Write Love on Her Arms.”  From there he made a couple hundred t-shirts to sell in an effort to offset the medical costs, and a few of those shirts wound up on the backs of some touring musicians.  People started asking about the shirt and finding the story online, and the rest, I guess is history.  What began as one person’s story became a kind of movement, a really global conversation about pain and hope.

– TWLOHA began in 2006 – 6 years ago. Did you ever anticipate that it would last this long and reach so many people?

Quite simply, no.  There was never a business plan, or dream to start a non-profit.  Like we said, this was supposed to just be about helping our friend and in an incredible, organic, and unpredictable way we stumbled on a much bigger conversation.  Our latest numbers are both something we are immensely proud of and humbled by.
Since we started this, we’ve been able to donate over $1million directly to avenues for treatment and recovery.  We’ve been able to read and respond to over 170,000 messages from over 100 countries over email and social networks.  We have been able to take this story to millions of people on tours and speaking events…and yet in our minds, this is still about the individual.
We started in attempts to help one person, and in our minds we are still intentional about meeting people, one person at a time.  It’s still about helping our friends, just repeated thousands and thousands of times over.
– You have donated over $1 million directly into treatment and recovery – what else needs to be done [both in the short and long term]?
Depression, addiction, self-injury, and thoughts of suicide existed long before us.  They will also exist long after us.  These are issues of humanity and such issues won’t disappear by throwing money at it.  Sure, money helps create and maintain roads to help and recovery, but without compassion, it doesn’t amount to much.
We need to change the way we think and speak about depression and addiction.  We need to let people know that they are not alone and that we are not afraid of their pain.  We need people to know we believe in better days for them and their worth has never been determined by what they have or have not done.  This can be communicated in a hug or a smile.  It could be a 2AM phone call or simple anonymous letter.  Human problems require human solutions.
We get to the long term by realizing that 5 years is made up of a whole bunch of todays….so what are we going to do today?  We can speak out against bullying, or organize a safe place to talk about life, or highlight resources for help.  We can look inside of ourselves and understand that sometimes asking for help can be hard, and with that measure of sympathy we can be proactive in how we care for those around us.
In short, what needs to be done is finding ways to prove to one another that we are here for one another.
– What can people do to help out?
Like I said above, it can be the simplest acts that have the deepest impacts.  We don’t own exclusive right to words like depression, or addiction, or suicide.  Neither do we own word like hope and help.  Whether you decide to help out under the banner of TWLOHA or otherwise, we are just excited that you want to care for people in your life.
If you are curious about how to directly help with advancing our mission, we would like to welcome you to check out our website at TWLOHA.com.  There you will see a page called MOVE which is dedicated to helping you get plugged in.
– Support for your organisation has reached across the world – it must be an incredible feeling to know how many people are involved, across the entire world..?
Yeah, it’s truly an honor.  But I think beyond that it adds a level of community to the equation.  The issues we’re speaking about are “equal-opportunity” affecting people regardless of gender, faith, socio-economic status, geography, race, or age.  But in the same breath we can see that the same solutions are present for everybody.
The first step is allowing people to be part of our lives.  To know and be known.  It becomes a less lonely place when we realize that other people have been there, AND MADE IT THROUGH.  It becomes less scary when we can work together to find networks and places to continue seeking help.  We are all in this together, across every timezone out there.
– What else is in the future for the organisation?
We are constantly seeking creative ways to bring this conversation to more and more people.  Keep an eye on the calendar on our website or our social networks and odds are we’ll be visiting somewhere near you…if not, then know that we are working as hard as we can to get there.  I don’t want to spoil any secrets, but we are definitely excited about the coming months and we think you’ll be happy with what you see!
– You had a noticeable prescence at SXSW this year – are those sort of ‘events’ a great way to raise awareness?
SXSW has been an incredible venue for us for the past few years.  There is so much life during those weeks.  Thousands of people descending on one of the coolest cities out there and all drawn out due to their love of music.  We believe that music is a extremely powerful – something that can help us make sense of our lives.  It reminds us that there are things in life worth singing about and screaming about and dancing about and sharing with other people.  We celebrate the diversity of SX-ers and we feed off of the creativity.  So as much as it is an opportunity to raise awareness, it is also a celebration of life that we love being able to participate in.
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Many thanks to Chad for taking the time to chat to us. For more information about TWLOHA, check out: http://www.twloha.com/
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