To Write Love On Her Arms was founded in 2006 with a message of hope. 11 years later, the non-profit is still spreading the word and making a positive change in the world about suicide prevention. We sat down with Elizabeth Wilder, who is a music and event coordinator for TWLOHA at the Denver stop on the Vans Warped Tour to see how things have improved in the last eleven years.
GTV: How did you become involved with To Write Love On Her Arms?
Elizabeth Wilder: I did their spring internship last year and after that I was asked to stay on after that to help them around the office, run a few festivals including Warped Tour last year, and was finally staffed in October.
GTV: TWLOHA has been around for 11 years already. How does it feel to be one of the leaders in the suicide awareness and prevention movement?
EW: It’s humbling, honestly. We know how hard starting a non-profit can be and to keep the momentum going. It’s exciting to see how much progress we have made and how much more there is to come.
GTV: How have you seen the conversation about this subject change since you first started?
EW: 11 years ago I was in middle school and it was a difficult conversation to have. Once TWLOHA became more known and more present in the music industry, these kids were seeing like ‘oh, I can have this conversation and it doesn’t have to be hard or difficult. I don’t have to feel judged’. I think that’s carried on through the eleven years.
GTV: What are some current statistics about suicide?
EW: We often see that one out of three people don’t get help for any sort of mental illness and that’s the statistic we’re out here trying to change. Sometimes that statistic can be scary to people but that’s the kind of honesty we need.
GTV: Have you seen an improvement in the last 11 years with it?
EW: We’ve seen that more kids aged 13 to 25 are reaching out when they see that they are struggling with these issues, so that’s a big help. Honestly, that’s not just us, there are plenty of other great mental health non-profits that are part of this big family. We’re all just trying to change things for the better.
GTV: With cyber-bullying on the rise, do you find that with each technological advance there is a learning curve on how to deal with the challenges it presents?
EW: For sure. Every time there is something new, like Snapchat or Instagram Stories, it leads to pros and cons; what can we do in this situation to help the cyber-bullying and what is going to harm these people. It’s kind of trying to find the balance between what our supporters need combined with what we already have available for them.
GTV: What are some of the newer challenges you hear of people facing?
EW: In terms of cyber-bullying it could be via text, it could be Instagram comments. It’s almost as if people are less shy about cyber-bullying because it’s so much easier to attack people. It’s so difficult to watch our supporters to go through that. We want to be there to be the positive through all the negative that happens on social media.
GTV: Schools across America have been adding defined ‘safe spaces’ within their buildings. Do you see that this has helped at least open the conversation?
EW: Even within the last year with the election, the conversation has grown. We’re seeing more colleges and more schools creating these safe spaces because they know they are needed, especially now. It’s a great conversation and we’re glad it’s finally happening. Even if there is negative backlash to that, we’re glad that people are willing to reach out to these people and say ‘we are here for you and you are safe here’.
GTV: Jamie wrote a letter in response to the TV show 13 Reasons Why stating that the company was ‘thankful for the good that is coming as a result’ but wishes the show had ‘been more careful in how they chose to tell the story’. What do you think the creators of the show could have been more sensitive in about?
EW: I was actually in talks with Jamie before he wrote the response. We sat down and talked a lot about the way that suicide is represented, as this malicious thing, like she was revengeful. Typically, when someone is thinking of committing suicide, they’re not thinking of the aftermath. So that kind of rubbed us the wrong way as far as what it’s showing the audience. It’s saying you can somehow get back at every person who has wronged you for doing whatever they did. We also had a couple issues with the suicide scene because it was so graphic. It is actually proven that if someone who is considering suicide sees something like that it heightens their risk. So it’s going about in more careful way.
GTV: The show continues to garner criticism for ‘glamorizing suicide’. Do you think this way of thinking is another stigma about suicide or do you think that has caused issues?
EW: I think it has caused issues. In the context of the show it isn’t a stigma. Again, they did show it in such an abrupt way, it doesn’t glamorize it. But they’re not showing that you can find some sort of peace before that.
GTV: Another complaint about the show is that they never actually educate viewers on how to get the right help, even if all the conventional methods failed. What advice would you give these fans on how to go about getting help?
EW: With the rise of social media, we’ve seen a lot of people reach out to the Crisis Text Line. You can simply text ‘Help’ to 741741 and you’re immediately connected with a crisis counselor. Sometimes it’s difficult to get on the phone or even in person with somebody, so that’s an easy way to try and get help. There are plenty of resources like Nami, we have our own resources at TWLOHA. We have every state, which has cities within that have handpicked resources that we would send our own family and friends to. There is also 7 Cups of Tea which provides online counseling. Similar to the Crisis Text line, you’re immediately connected with someone based on what you’re struggling with, who can help you through whatever you’re dealing with. Social media is a great place. It’s a blessing and a curse; you can see the worst, but you can get the best out of it as well.
GTV: Being able to help people and share your story is therapeutic in its own right. How can people get involved in the TWOLHA movement?
EW: We’re always looking for people to bring TWOLHA to their communities. Through the TWLOHA site, we have ways to bring it to you, how you can reach out to us when we’re in your area like for Warped Tour. We have four volunteers today from saying ‘we need help, who’s in the area?’ We’re always traveling and looking for people who are passionate about mental health and are interested in growing this family and to get involved.
GTV: What’s the most common way to volunteer?
EW: There are a lot of ways to get involved. We see a lot of people do supporter benefits. It’s a time you set up to create a safe-space for people and you speak the message of TWLOHA, which is finding hope and help for people. It’s just a time to bring your community together to feel like a family. You can signup to be a Crisis Textline counselor. Even if you can’t bring TWLOHA to you that’s another way that so many people have done.
GTV: Any last comments or big events we should know about?
EW: We’re just excited to be out on the Warped Tour for our eleventh year. It’s always exciting to see new mental health nonprofits. Be sure to check out heartsupport, I Am Second, and A Voice For The Innocent. They are all just great people and we’re just excited to be apart of this family still.
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