Sharing a story of LOVE

To Write Love on Her Arms founder Jamie Tworkowski speaks to a UND crowd Tuesday night. Photo by Keisuke Yoshimura/The Dakota Student.

“Your story matters, and this is not the end of your story.”

Jamie Tworkowski, founder of the nonprofit organization To Write Love on Her Arms, has said these words to many audiences across the world. This week he shared the phrase with the students of UND at the Chester Fritz Auditorium.

To Write Love on Her Arms began as a story in 2006, and Tworkowski’s said Tuesday night his seminar’s goal was to share the story and get students at UND thinking about their own stories.

Focusing on finding help for those who struggle from depression, addiction, self-injury and suicidal thoughts, To Write Love on Her Arms began with the story of Renee, a 19-year-old girl struggling with all of these issues.

Tworkowski shared her story via Myspace. Its title would soon become the organization’s name.

“This phrase ‘to write love on her arms’ was just a sentence in my story that had meaning of so much more,” Tworkowski said. “Bad habits had begun to cloud Renee’s identity, and I wanted her identity to become more positive — become love.”

Throughout his presentation, Tworkowski kept the audience focused on community, relating to the organization’s newest campaign slogan “People need other people.”

He also addressed the sensitive mental health topics as a conversation that should be world-wide.

To bring a more local perspective, Chloe Grabanski shared her story of struggling with depression and anxiety. Grabanski is a former UND student and works for To Write Love on Her Arms as a facilitator for suicide prevention in high schools.

“Being at UND and having the services we have here made me realize something very important,” Grabanski said. “You can ask for help.”

According to Tworkowski, the purpose of traveling and speaking at universities is to get people to realize what Grabanski did: That it is OK to get help.

“The main thing I hope people take away from this is just to talk about the tough stuff,” Tworkowski said. “People need to talk and see that their story is worth fighting for and that these stories let us know that words like ‘hope’ are real.”

National message

To Write Love on Her Arms has the biggest online audience of any nonprofit organization, with people reaching out through MySpace and Facebook, according to Big Picture Media.

Over the past six years, roughly 200,000 messages have been answered by the organization from more than 100 countries. The cause has raised more than $1 million to aid in treatment of depression, addiction, self-harm and suicidal thoughts.

To Write Love on Her Arms has many different campaigns to bring about awareness and highlight that people are not alone.

A recent campaign, Dreams vs. Fears, asks people to write down one of their dreams and one of their fears.

According to Tworkowski, people are able to connect and feel less alone once they see that other people have common dreams and fears.

Musical links

One thing that makes this organization unique is the strong link it has to music.

Bands, such as Switchfoot, support the cause and bring awareness through their concerts and pairing up with the organization on events.

Noah Gundersen of the indie band The Courage performed at the UND presentation as a musical accompaniment to the discussion.

“Music will always be a part of To Write Love on Her Arms because it is a way to break the silence,” Tworkowski said. “Renee told me that songs have a funny way of being kind of like a friend, and I want everyone to feel that.”

Erin Cheever is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. She can be reached at [email protected]