Progress has been slow with the treatment and perception of mental health and people who struggle with mental illness in our society. There is a lot of apathy and hostility from many people towards those who have mental illnesses. As a result, many who have mental illnesses lack support and understanding from others, making them feel alone. They also often lack the resources to get the treatment they need and deserve. These issues are part of what To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA) aims to resolve.

There are many small steps that lead to bigger leaps of progress in this line of work. For example, one of our goals is to have counseling resources listed on our website for all fifty states, in addition to as many other countries as possible. One of my tasks is to search for potential resources for the website. Once I’ve found a promising candidate, I get in contact with such places and figure out if they’re a match for what we’re looking for in resources. If they are and they want to be listed, we can put them on the website. We only post resources once we’ve found three that work, and after we find contact information for support groups in the area in question. Finding this contact information is another one of my tasks. These are all small steps individually, but they lead to the big step of providing the resources for people struggling to get help.

Another example is the TWLOHA blog. A lot of steps go into getting blogs up on the website, including reviewing submissions, editing, posting on the website, and moderating comments. Ultimately, they lead to a lot of content being published online that fights stigma and helps make people feel less alone, which is exactly what TWLOHA strives to do. This is an extremely important part of what TWLOHA does, and it has, in my opinion, the greatest positive impact out of everything the organization does. Fighting loneliness and ignorance with words can be highly effective, and the TWLOHA blog is proof of that. Posts have been shared countless times and have offered new perspectives to a massive amount of people. All this comes from hard work put into gradual steps.

A piece of the Find Help page on the TWLOHA website.


A snippet from the TWLOHA blog post “What Made Maddy Run: The Secret Struggles and Tragic Death of an All-American Teen”


Michael Solowey

Music, Movements, and Mental Health

In the spring 2017 semester, I took a class called “Rock and Roll in American Culture.” In this class, I learned about how social movements have influenced rock and how rock has influenced social movements. For example, rock music and rock musicians played a big role in the Civil Rights Movement, as well as the Anti-Vietnam War Movement. To my surprise, this is a parallel to the organization I’m interning with, To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA).

TWLOHA began eleven years ago when the organization’s founder sold t-shirts at a rock show to help pay for a friend’s rehabilitative treatment. The vocalist of the band playing that show noticed the t-shirts, emblazoned with what would become TWLOHA’s logo, and wanted to wear one of them while performing on stage. Overnight, hundreds of people sent in messages to the TWLOHA MySpace page. Soon after, TWLOHA joined Vans Warped Tour, a traveling music festival featuring mostly rock bands. Since then, TWLOHA has sold t-shirts, started conversations, and disseminated mental health resources at dozens of music festivals around the country, even expanding to other genres outside of rock. Many different musicians have worn TWLOHA t-shirts on stage, and a large portion of the people who know about the organization learned about it from these musicians. TWLOHA  is deeply connected to music, especially rock music, as a platform for social movement .

I experienced this connection firsthand, as I had the opportunity to work at the TWLOHA booth at Warped Tour in West Palm Beach, Florida. A band I like, Movements, performed while I was there. Before their set, they invited to the microphone a man who shared his struggles with addiction and urged people struggling with addiction to seek help. Later in the day from behind the booth, I could hear another band’s vocalist talking about how hard it is to have a loss of hope, trying to convince people struggling to stay alive, saying, “It’s okay to not be okay.” Hearing and seeing these musicians use their performances and popularity as a platform to promote social justice reminded me of what I learned in “Rock and Roll in American Culture.”

Recalling the discussions we had in this class, I was reminded of the power and importance of art as a method of promoting social justice. The moments I witnessed at Warped Tour are a few of many examples of art being a catalyst and platform for social change. This connection reminds me of TWLOHA’s roots in rock music and how music has catalyzed this organization’s ability to promote social change in mental health.

Love Is Still the Most Powerful Force On the Planet

The mission statement of To Write Love On Her Arms, the organization with which I am interning, does as much justice to its mission as two short sentences can:

“To Write Love on Her Arms is a nonprofit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide. TWLOHA exists to encourage, inform, inspire, and invest directly into treatment and recovery.”

There are many different ways that TWLOHA addresses these goals. One of the most important of these ways is the blog on the TWLOHA website. Twice a week, a post is published on the blog. These posts often directly discuss the four issues referred to in the mission statement, but also discuss abuse, eating disorders, bullying, anxiety, self-care, and recovery, among other topics. The posts bring these issues to light in an attempt to humanize the people who suffer from them, and to provide encouragement and hope to people struggling. They are also an effort to reach people who are not struggling and convince them to care about those who are, as well as an effort to reach people who are struggling and remind them that recovery is possible, and it’s okay to have a mental illness even in a society that tells you it isn’t.

Another important way TWLOHA addresses its goals is by serving as a bridge between treatment and people struggling. The “Find Help” page contains a constantly updating list of carefully selected treatment services for locations around the United States and even in other countries. It also features a list of national resources that can be accessed by anyone in each of the countries listed. TWLOHA also offers counseling scholarships to help pay for treatment for those who can’t afford it, and invests money directly into places like suicide hotlines and foundations for advocacy and the funding of research. To date, TWLOHA has invested over $1.5 million into organizations that directly and indirectly help people who struggle with mental illness.

As an intern this summer, I have a few different responsibilities that I’ll be tackling along with my fellow interns. All seven of the interns answer emails for the first half of the day. This is more important than it sounds. The emails include everything from partnership requests, to expressions of gratitude to the organization, to telling stories of one’s struggles. Often there are emails that ask for help because the senders have no where else to turn. My job as an intern is to respond to all of these emails thoughtfully, with compassion and encouragement, and in a way that shows the sender that we care about them. This is one of the things we do that has the most impact on individual lives. We receive so many emails from people who say this organization helped them find their reasons to keep living, or that a reply email we sent to them was exactly what they needed to hear. I had no idea sending a simple email could make such an impact on someone’s life.

Another one of my responsibilities is to seek out more resources for the website, especially in the few states and many countries that don’t have any listed yet. I also help go through the applications for the next intern term, and I have been organizing our blog archive. Last weekend, I got to run the TWLOHA booth at Firefly Music Festival in Dover, Delaware. After reading so many emails thanking us for the work we do, I had an even deeper appreciation for the organization than I did before I arrived. However, running the booth at Firefly made me know how incredibly worthwhile this work is. So many people came up to the booth and told us that TWLOHA helped them get through an extremely dark time in their life. Some people hadn’t heard of us, but struggle themselves, or had lost a loved one to mental illness. Their thanks for doing the important work we do was so touching and meaningful. After witnessing this and hearing these stories, my main goal for the summer is to help as many people as possible, directly or indirectly, and to do everything in my power to make life better for people who struggle with mental illness.

Michael Solowey