Photo by Andrew Wigdor / News Editor
Story by Andrew Wigdor / MTSU Seigenthaler News Service
To Write Love on Her Arms, a non-profit organization dedicated to assisting people struggling with depression, addiction and thoughts of self-injury or suicide, hosted a presentation and social experiment at the 2017 Bonnaroo music festival.
The presentation allowed passersby to “write down the one thing they really need to say,” according to TWLOHA representative Shea Davidson. People could write down anything on slips of paper that would later be hung up on twine strings laced around the TWLOHA tent at Bonnaroo. Whether it was something that the writer wanted to say to a past or future version of themselves, family member or a stranger, every note was posted. Bonnaroo attendees were then encouraged to take a note from the inside of the tent as they left the festival.
“The idea is that if you can connect with someone you’ve never seen, never met at a huge festival like this, anonymously, then hopefully, you can go back home and connect more intentionally with people in your community,” Davidson said.
She stated that Bonnaroo attendees have been receiving life-changing messages from people they may never encounter.
“So far the response has been really incredible … We have people in here being moved to tears, people finding ones that were words from their grandmother or words from a loved one. (They find) something that they have been struggling with, and they are seeing the answer in somebody else’s handwriting,” Davidson said.
TWLOHA Music and Events Coordinator Chad Moses, who was also at the Bonnaroo presentation, stated that the organization has been working with Bonnaroo for about four years.
“Bonnaroo does such an awesome job of bringing people together and allows people to celebrate community and individuality,” Moses said.
During the music festival and elsewhere, TWLOHA regularly connects people with mental health resources. According to Moses, TWLOHA is sent thousands of emails from people who wish to share their stories or from people who are asking where they can receive help in their community. Through their fundraising campaigns and merchandise sales, TWLOHA has also donated almost $2 million directly to organizations that assist in the treatment of mental health disorders and counseling services.
“Many people don’t know that these resources exist. So, we are primarily a source of encouragement. We are a place that will safely receive their stories and, hopefully, encourage people to check out resources back home,” Moses said. “Everything we do is really geared to getting people plugged in to mental health resources back home.”
TWLOHA raises much of the funding that goes toward treatment through their campaigns that are held throughout the year. The non-profit partners with organizations, such as the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, to raise money and spread awareness of the resources that are readily available to people.
“The hope is to start a conversation saying, ‘Look, you’re not alone,’” Moses said. “’There are people who understand these questions. There are people who understand what you are going through. There are people who have dedicated their lives to making sure that you feel a sense of connection.’”
While TWLOHA comes in contact with the stories of those who struggle with mental health issues on a daily basis, the organization began years ago with one similar story.
“When we started, there was no intention of being a non-profit. It was all about helping our friend and telling her story,” Moses said.
According to Moses, there was and is a literal “her” who inspired the name of the organization. Her name is Renee, and her story was one of “complete addiction and self-injury.”
“The name, ‘To Write Love on Her Arms,’ was the name of a literal ten-page story, a blog, actually, written about Renee’s addiction and recovery. It was about a community really coming together to meet her needs in a creative way before she was able to enter a treatment facility for her addiction,” Moses said.
The story can still be read on the organization’s website and was written by TWLOHA founder Jamie Tworkowski. TWLOHA developed and expanded as more people read the original story on social media websites and were impacted by Renee’s struggle.
“People joined the conversation of holding on to hope … And here we are, 11 years later, getting to be at places like Bonnaroo. We outgrew our little corner on Myspace,” Moses said.
To donate to TWLOHA or to learn more about the organization’s campaigns and programs, visit here.
For more Bonnaroo coverage, click here.