Photo caption: Jamie Tworkowski, of To Write Love On Her Arms, speaks to students during a lecture at the Hill Student Center.   Photo by Ian KeelJamie Tworkowski, of To Write Love On Her Arms, speaks to students during a lecture at the Hill Student Center. Photo by Ian KeelSufia Alam - Staff Writer

Jamie Tworkowski, founder of To Write Love on Her Arms, visited campus Monday, Sept. 26 to offer advice on dealing with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide.

TWLOHA was founded as a nonprofit organization in 2006 by Tworkowski after he admitted his friend to a treatment center for self-injury, addiction and suicidal thoughts. The main goal of his organization is to encourage, inform and be directly involved with treatment and recovery of individuals battling with these issues.

“The best thing I get to hear is someone saying they are still alive because of this organization,” Tworkowski said. “Someone saying that they ended up getting help because of a talk or event, that’s my ultimate, practical goal.”

The name of the organization was inspired by a friend of Tworkowski’s, who struggled with addiction and suicidal thoughts, self-harmed and who wrote an intentional, hurtful phrase on her arms.

Tworkowski titled a story “To Write Love on Her Arms,” a play on the phrase the friend had used, that he used to share his five day experience with her before she entered treatment. He also created T-shirts to help cover the cost of her treatment, which led to their fame when music band Switchfoot first wore one. Currently, Tworkowski travels around the country advocating for mental health and raising awareness for related issues.

“In high school my best friend suffered some self-harm issues,” said Pete Watson, a senior psychology major. “And I would always give him presents with TWLOHA written on them to show my support and love.”

Naema Patella, a sophomore biomedical engineering student, said the reason she decided to attend was because TWLOHA had a direct impact on her life by helping her with some issues she was dealing with.

Students who attended the lecture were able to listen to Tworkowski’s journey, which began 10 years ago.

“The reason why I have been able to keep up my work all these years is because I have always kept the dialogue open with honesty and compassion,” he said. “Honesty is willing to ask the hard questions and compassion is fighting for what you believe in.”
During his talk, Tworkowski mentioned the importance of students being aware of issues such as suicide risk and mental health and actively trying to remove the stigma behind these issues. He said talking about these issues openly and honestly is the first step to overcoming a problem, as he believes it invites others to do the same.

Hannah Barnes, a freshman nursing major, said the reason she attended was to learn more about how to fight the stigma that goes along with mental health and other topics that she feels many people are not willing to discuss.

“A lot of times, people with mental health issues don’t speak up because they think what they’re suffering should be suffered in silence because mental health isn’t something you should talk about,” Barnes said.

UAB students looking to get more involved in the nonprofit organization can join the website and participate in activities such as fundraising to submitting blogs of their personal experience.

Students struggling with mental health issues have options available on campus as well. The Student Health and Wellness Center offers counseling services. According to their website, counseling services hope to assist students in developing their potential in physical, academic, spiritual, psychosocial, emotional and vocational areas. They offer counseling services for individuals and couples, crises, wellness, group opportunities and educational resources.