The Gustavian Weekly

To Write Love On Her Arms: Jamie Tworkowski brings a message of hope and healing to Gustavus

By Victoria Clark Editor-in-Chief | October 14, 2011 | variety

Jamie Tworkowski speaking on behalf of To Write Love On Her Arms. Submitted.

At 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 18, Jamie Tworkowski of the non-profit To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA) will speak in Christ Chapel about the outreach his team is doing on the topics of self-injury, addiction and depression.

The goal of the non-profit is to create dialogue about these issues and provide support for those grappling with their effects. TWLOHA brings their message to the public through speaking engagements at concerts, universities, festivals and churches, but their online campaign is where the concept started.

In spring of 2006, the operation took shape out of a rather simple aim: to help a friend recover from self-abuse and addiction.

Tworkowski and his friends started off by selling t-shirts as a way to pay for their friend’s treatment and created a MySpace page to get the word out, but soon found that their simple aim spoke to the lives of people everywhere.

“It was the next logical step [to create the non-profit],” Tworkowski said. “The t-shirts and the MySpace were taking on a life of their own and there was so much happening that it was an obvious opportunity to do more than we had initially set out to do.”

Tworkowski mentioned that the creation of TWLOHA is rather different from the way other non-profits start off.
“It’s kind of the opposite of the average non-profit where people start and they dream of raising money or having an audience, because we had those things before we even had the charity. It just felt like the right thing to do,” he said.

Today, the four-year-old non-profit has expanded greatly with a staff, based out of Melbourne, Fla., that has responded to 150,000 people in forty different countries dealing with the effects of self-injury, addiction and depression.

Tworkowski said that he spends about half his time away speaking at events and on the road to events with many of the events taking place on college campuses.

“These issues affect people, so we want to go where people go,” he said. “It feels like talking to peers [when we’re on a campus], because most of our team is young and most of our audience is young. We get to be in a room full of young people who tend to be open-minded and compassionate. I’m happy those doors have continued to be open.”

He said that in addition to their speaking engagements, much of the work they do happens online.
“A lot of what we do happens on Facebook, Twitter and our own website,” Tworkowski said. “We try to be creative in bringing this message of hope and help.”

TWLOHA also invests in treatment and recovery programs. In fact, Tworkowski said the non-profit has been able to give close to a million dollars to treatment and recovery in the U.S. and around the world.

However, Tworkowski feels the most important work they can do is to provide communication and encouragement, because they’ve found that one of the hardest obstacles in helping people is getting them to take the first step.

“We find that most people never take the first step, most of them never get help,” Tworkoski said.

“So, it’s not as simple as listing resources or even investing financially in resources. I think the best of what we do is communicate and encourage. We try to let people know they’re not alone. We try to encourage them to connect with resources we know or that are in their own communities.”

He said that those who aren’t the one struggling can play a role in recovery as well by encouraging people to have honest conversations and learning to empathize.

“Try to learn about the circumstances that our friends might be in,” he said. “I think for a lot of us we have people around us that struggle with things that may be foreign to us. For a lot of people addiction or self-injury and depression are things that they don’t understand.”

Another way you can help is by being educated about the resources available to people struggling with these issues.

“Help point someone to the solution,” Tworkoski said. “Let your friends know that you’re willing to be a part of the process.”

Visit TWLOHA’s website at twloha.com for more information on their mission and how you can help.