By Ryan Obradovic, staff writer
To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA) is a national nonprofit organization started by Jamie Tworkowski. According to TWLOHA’s website, Tworkowski founded the organization after meeting with Renee Yohe, a woman struggling with addiction, depression, self-injury, and suicidal thoughts.
Tworkowski later wrote a story about Yohe with the title, “To Write Love on Her Arms.” He named the organization after his story with the goal of spreading awareness about people who suffer from similar conditions as Yohe did. He wanted them to know that a better life was possible than the one they were living, according to TWLOHA’s website.
The University of Missouri-St. Louis has a chapter of TWLOHA which was created in 2016. The organization’s mission is the same as the national organization, which is to raise awareness for those struggling with anxiety, depression, self-harm, substance abuse, suicidal thoughts, and other mental illnesses, said Hannah Gill, junior, biochemistry/biotechnology, president of the TWLOHA organization at UMSL.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicides outnumbered homicides by more than two to one nationwide in 2013. Also, an average of 707 Missourians die by suicide annually. That is almost two suicides per day, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.
In an attempt to lower those numbers, TWLOHA refers people who are struggling to resources on campus such as the University Health, Wellness & Counseling Services. There is also the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the Crisis Text Line which are both available 24 hours a day.
During National Suicide Prevention Week in 2016, TWLOHA staked 1,100 flags outside the Thomas Jefferson Library to represent the approximate number of college undergrads who commit suicide each year.
Students could donate money to the organization if they wanted TWLOHA to give a flag to someone the student knew that had lost someone from suicide or had struggled with suicidal thoughts.
The donations TWLOHA received were sent to the national TWLOHA organization to help aid mental help and therapy services, according to Gill.
The organization occasionally has tables set up on the bridge at UMSL where they hand out positive notes attached to lollipops to passing students.
The members of TWLOHA at UMSL empathize with the students who come to them looking for help, because most of the members have suffered from depression or suicidal thoughts as well, according to Gill.
Gill has struggled with suicidal thoughts but has never attempted; however, there are a couple people in the organization who have attempted to take their own life, according to Gill. “I’ve struggled with depression since I was a kid,” Gill said. “Most of our members are similar in that way,” she added.
If anyone is struggling with anxiety, depression, self-harm, substance abuse, suicidal thoughts, or other mental illnesses, Gill urges them to come forward and seek help. “This is a symptom of being human and it’s nothing to be ashamed about,” Gill said.
“I don’t understand why it has to be hidden so much, because more likely than not, since we’re humans we’re going to experience something like that,” Gill said.