There has been a natural connection between music and the nonprofit organization To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA), which has been helping people struggling with addiction, depression, self-harm and suicidal thoughts since 2006.
The organization has used various concerts, tours and festivals--within Christian music and outside--to spread its message of love, support, honesty and empathy, by raising funds, selling merch and connecting with the people who can benefit from their resources.
In honor of National Suicide Prevention Week this week, and World Suicide Prevention Day on Wednesday, Sept. 10, we're sharing this exclusive interview NRT's Kristyn York had with TWLOHA's founder, Jamie Tworkowski, while at New England's Soulfest. Learn more about TWLOHA at www.twloha.org
To Write Love On Her Arms is a huge organization that is changing lives everywhere. Did you ever expect it to become such a huge success?
No. It started really small, it just started as an attempt to help a friend and tell a story. There was no intention of starting an organization or a movement. So it's been a big surprise. And I think it speaks not to us doing something great, but just to the need and the reality that so many people in so many places struggle with the issues that we talk about.
Being at a music festival, what music inspires you?
Well, Switchfoot's one of my favorite bands. I'm really happy that they're here today. I feel like I connect with music that's honest. I feel like songs have this unique ability where they're allowed to be honest about questions, about feelings and pain. I think Jon Foreman is really amazing at writing songs that speak to that, songs that really move people, invite people to be honest. U2 is another one of my favorite bands. But they are not here today.
What about music do you think goes along so well with what the organization is doing?
Just the idea that it invites people to be honest, and reminds us that we're human. Because music makes you feel things, especially the music that we connect with. I think it really does invite people to know that their questions matter, and that their feelings and emotions matter. And for a lot of us, outside of music, we don't really know how to express it or where to go or what to do with that stuff.
How has the incredible impact that TWLOHA is making in peoples' lives changed you?
It's just really humbling, you know? To be a part of something that means a lot to a lot of people. It's a privilege to feel like I get to bring my heart to work, and I get to meet people who are still alive because of the work that we're doing. And that's the stuff that really keeps us going and reminds us what's at stake.
Are there any big future plans for TWLOHA?
Yeah, there's a movie coming out in March I believe. It was filmed in Orlando a couple years back, and it's based on the story that we grew out of and the life of my friend Renee. There's an actress named Kat Dennings who plays the lead, she plays Renee in the movie. And that will be called To Write Love On Her Arms
. So people all over the world will be able to see that film in March.
What's your message to the supporters of TWLOHA?
Really the message to everyone is just wanting people to know it's OK to be honest, and it's OK to ask for help, and the idea that people need other people is one that we talk a lot about. We just want people to know they deserve friends, they deserve a community, they deserve a support system, and that we were not intended to do this life alone.
In observance of National Suicide Prevention Week, NRT Associate Editor Mary Nikkel curated a Spotify playlist of songs for people who are looking for hope. Check out the "For the Moments I Feel Faint" playlist below.