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Sunday, December 6, 2020

Campus

Suicide prevention nonprofit visits UH with love on its mind


Jamie Tworkowski founded TWLOHA in March 2006. | Courtesy of Big Picture Media

The founder of a nonprofit designed to help those who self-harm will come to campus as a guest speaker on 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Student Center Theater.

Jamie Tworkowski is the brainchild of To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA), an organization with much recognition, including an award from Mashable in 2011 and $1 million grants from both NBC and the Chase Foundation.

“Our primary work is communicating a message of hope and help to people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and thoughts of suicide,” Tworkowski said. “We do this online, on social media, on college campuses and in the realm of music. We’ve learned that most people who need help never get it. A lot of that is because of stigma and fear, so we invite people to believe that it’s okay to ask for help.”

The event will include discussion on the topics of help, depression and addiction but will also include some diversions.

Tworkowski said that students should expect “to be encouraged, to laugh, to think, to hear some great music from my friend Steven McMorran (of the band Satellite) and to be invited into an important conversation. More than anything, to know they’re not alone.”

Despite the acclaim, TWLOHA has also been at the center of multiple controversies. Critics have claimed that it has misused funds, while others point out that the organization began with apparent ties to religious organizations that some claim are homophobic.

“TWLOHA, which started as a project from Christian non-profit booster Fireproof Ministries, also ran into controversy when supporters learned that one of its affiliates was Mercy Ministries, a Southern help center known for practicing gay conversion therapy and even exorcisms,” Aja Romano wrote in an article for the Daily Dot.

In 2008, TWLOHA cut ties with Mercy Ministries and subsequently participated in multiple LGBTQ-friendly campaigns.

Tworkowski declined to remark on the accusations against his organization.

In spite of the criticism they’ve faced in the past, the organization continues to raise money and spread their message. They just completed a campaign titled “And So I Kept Living.”

In honor of National Suicide Prevention Week, which took place from Sept. 5 to 11, Tworkowski invited people to finish the sentence “I kept living because…” and raised more than $85,000 for suicide prevention. Tworkowski said the money will directly go to those in need of help.

“That money will go to treatment, counseling and connecting to those people to those resources,” Tworkowski said. “Perhaps more than anything, the campaign is about letting people know it’s OK to be honest about their pain and it’s OK to ask for help.”

There will be merchandise for students to purchase at the event, as well as resources and information about suicide prevention.

Correction: A previous version of this article mischaracterized the role of To Write Love on Her Arms and the amount of money it received in grants.

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