Jamie Tworkowski
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Jamie Tworkowski

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The best kept secret in music

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""Love is the Movement""

Jamie Tworkowski didn’t expect to start an internationally known organization.

He didn’t do it for fame, for praise or for monetary benefits.

The founder of To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA) started the suicide prevention group to help a friend.

Tworkowski, musician Eric James and TWLOHA member Denny Kolsch met with students in Slee Hall on Wednesday for a night of encouragement, music and open discussion about suicide, depression, addiction, and self-injury.

Tworkowski started TWLOHA in 2006 when he met Renee, a struggling and self-injuring drug addict. The night before Renee was supposed to go to rehab, she locked herself in the bathroom and carved “F**k up” on her forearm with a razor.

The next morning, Renee was denied admission to rehab because her wounds were fresh. She was asked to return five days later when the drugs were out of her system. Tworkowski and friends kept her safe and sober in those days before Renee returned to rehab.

“It wasn’t a profanity issue, it was an identity issue,” Tworkowski said. “Renee bought into the lies and the regret and she believed that she was stuck for good.”

Tworkowski decided that Renee needed to know love as her true goal. And thus, the name was born.

After he met Renee, Tworkowski wrote about her story. He and his friends started selling T-shirts with their slogan as a way to pay for Renee’s treatment and made a MySpace page to “give it a home.”

Soon after, bands like Anberlin, Switchfoot, Paramore and The Rocket Summer began promoting TWLOHA at their shows by wearing the shirts and offering opportunities to meet Tworkowski. TWLOHA frequently tours with bands both in the U.S. and different countries to promote their cause.

“Music has the unique ability to ask questions and to tell us that it’s okay to feel things,” Tworkowski said.

Wednesday’s event started with an acoustic set by James, who met Tworkowski during a show where he was performing. The musician recommends music as an outlet for pain.

“Life is complicated and heavy, but it’s also very good,” James said to the crowd.

After James was done with his set, Kolsch came out and with tangible emotion, he told the room of his own struggle with addiction and depression. Kolsch was a heroin addict for four years before a friend was courageous enough to help him when he felt that he was alone.

“There is still an impulse today that makes me want to deal with pain alone, but we aren’t meant to live life alone,” Kolsch said. “We’re created to be loved and have relationships and have people know us and our story.”

Tworkowski, James and Kolsch offered encouragement, friendship and inspiration to everyone after the show to let them know that every person’s story mattered and that love is the ultimate goal.

“I have problems letting people in and I’m learning that it’s okay to ask for help from my friends and family and people who care about me,” said Kyle Ginkel, a junior exercise science major who attended the event.

Other people, like Chris Boardway, a senior biological sciences major, were affected in a different way.

“I haven’t personally experienced depression or thoughts of suicide, but I learned that I need to listen more closely to friends or family that may not know that I’m there for them if they need me,” Boardway said.

Hundreds of students attended the event and it was clear to Thom Neill, a licensed clinical social worker, counselor at UB and coordinator of Wednesday’s event that the number of e-mails he received meant that TWLOHA reached a lot of people.

“The main message that TWLOHA is trying to get across is that no matter who we are, there is overlap. We all share happiness, pain and humanity. We’re all alike,” Neill said. - The Spectrum - The University of Buffalo, Rachel Lamb


"To Write Love On Her Arms (Non-Profit Organization)"

Renee Yohe is 19 years old. When friend Jamie Tworkowski finds her, a lethal mix of cocaine, pot, pills and alcohol is coursing through her veins. Unable to receive professional help, her friends try to save her from herself.

Yohe's story would eventually become the basis for Tworkowski's nonprofit organization, To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA). The organization talks to and raises money for young adults suffering from depression, suicide, and self-injury. On this particular night, though, Tworkowski is merely a new acquaintance of Yohe's. When he and others attempt to admit her into a rehabilitation center, they are turned away; Yohe must be sober to be admitted. She and her friends must wait five days for her to sober up before trying again. Those five days become symbolic of her rebirth; they are a new world away from the drugs, self-mutilation and sexual abuse that had haunted her for so long.

"I hadn't been around a situation like that before, in terms of addiction," Tworkowski, 27, explains. "I was just really worried about her. She seemed really trapped and really hurt. I wanted her to be okay."

Tworkowski's compassion for Yohe has transformed into To Write Love on Her Arms. Created soon after his experience with Yohe in 2006, the Orlando, Florida-based organization began its slow process of reaching out, armed only with a MySpace account and a few t-shirts.

The organization's modest beginnings, however, soon caught the attention of Tworkowski's friends -- alternative bands, Switchfoot, Anberlin, and Between the Trees. Between the Trees' vocalist Ryan Kirkland also happened to be close to Yohe.

"I was friends with her prior to when everything went down," says Kirkland. "I feel like I was the only person who knew what was going on with her."

Soon, other alternative bands like Paramore and Hawthorne Heights started wearing shirts sporting the organization's name -- and fans took notice. "I soon realized [To Write Love On Her Arms] could be bigger than just helping [Yohe]," Tworkowski recalls. "People were starting to ask questions and get excited."

TWLOHA's success, unfortunately, remains a direct result of the vast number of people who battle depression, suicide and self-injury. One college junior, residing in New York, gave this disturbing account of how she feels when she cuts herself: "I love the feel of cold metal to my skin, the pause before the blood starts to bead up, and then the stinging sensation as a sea of red overtakes your skin."

She is not alone in the thrill she gets from cutting herself. According to www.twloha.com, four percent of Americans suffer from self-injury, which not only includes cutting, but burning, bruising and scratching, as well.

When asked if she has entertained committing suicide, the anonymous college junior replies, "I have, often. I like to sit and think of interesting ways to kill myself -- like slitting my wrists and taking out the tendons in my ankles, so I can't stand and slowly drown in my own blood." Regardless of her graphic suicide fantasies and her experiences with self-cutting, she denies being clinically depressed.

On the other end of the spectrum, a clinically depressed junior at Iona College, who does not entertain suicide or self-injury, explains how he feels when depression gets the best of him. "[I feel like] I'm worthless. People don't like me. I'm never going to be able to make it in the real world. I am never going to get a girl to like me. I'm a loser."

Even though his bouts with depression are fairly rare, thanks to the anti-depressant Zoloft, he joins the other 18 million Americans who suffer with this disease, according to The National Institute of Mental Health. Approximately two-thirds of these people never seek help. Depression, as expected, can also lead to suicide, particularly in teenagers. In fact, suicide is the third leading cause of death among 18-24 year olds, according to the National Adolescent Health Information Center. Tworskowski recalls a particularly impacting story of how his organization has, in fact, saved lives from suicide. "There was one girl who was thinking about taking her life," he explains. "She ran into a friend, and the friend had one of our t-shirts on. She asked her friend, ‘What is that? What does it mean?' They started to talk about it, and as a result of that conversation, she chose to stay alive. That's one story that really stayed with me."

Aside from letting their t-shirts talk for them, TWLOHA has hired six, full-time employees and eight full-time interns to answer their MySpace messages and e-mails. In total, TWLOHA has answered over 80,000 messages from 40 different countries. The organization also donates 25% of its revenue to treatment; in 2007 alone, $100,000 was donated to the National Hopeline Network, Teen Challenge, S.A.F.E. (Self Abuse Finally Ends) and Kids Help.

TWLOHA also just launched their Purpose for the Pain Tour. Between the Trees have been o - Redefine Magazine


"Love is the Movement"

Jamie Tworkowski didn’t expect to start an internationally known organization.

He didn’t do it for fame, for praise or for monetary benefits.

The founder of To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA) started the suicide prevention group to help a friend.

Tworkowski, musician Eric James and TWLOHA member Denny Kolsch met with students in Slee Hall on Wednesday for a night of encouragement, music and open discussion about suicide, depression, addiction, and self-injury.

Tworkowski started TWLOHA in 2006 when he met Renee, a struggling and self-injuring drug addict. The night before Renee was supposed to go to rehab, she locked herself in the bathroom and carved “F**k up” on her forearm with a razor.

The next morning, Renee was denied admission to rehab because her wounds were fresh. She was asked to return five days later when the drugs were out of her system. Tworkowski and friends kept her safe and sober in those days before Renee returned to rehab.

“It wasn’t a profanity issue, it was an identity issue,” Tworkowski said. “Renee bought into the lies and the regret and she believed that she was stuck for good.”

Tworkowski decided that Renee needed to know love as her true goal. And thus, the name was born.

After he met Renee, Tworkowski wrote about her story. He and his friends started selling T-shirts with their slogan as a way to pay for Renee’s treatment and made a MySpace page to “give it a home.”

Soon after, bands like Anberlin, Switchfoot, Paramore and The Rocket Summer began promoting TWLOHA at their shows by wearing the shirts and offering opportunities to meet Tworkowski. TWLOHA frequently tours with bands both in the U.S. and different countries to promote their cause.

“Music has the unique ability to ask questions and to tell us that it’s okay to feel things,” Tworkowski said.

Wednesday’s event started with an acoustic set by James, who met Tworkowski during a show where he was performing. The musician recommends music as an outlet for pain.

“Life is complicated and heavy, but it’s also very good,” James said to the crowd.

After James was done with his set, Kolsch came out and with tangible emotion, he told the room of his own struggle with addiction and depression. Kolsch was a heroin addict for four years before a friend was courageous enough to help him when he felt that he was alone.

“There is still an impulse today that makes me want to deal with pain alone, but we aren’t meant to live life alone,” Kolsch said. “We’re created to be loved and have relationships and have people know us and our story.”

Tworkowski, James and Kolsch offered encouragement, friendship and inspiration to everyone after the show to let them know that every person’s story mattered and that love is the ultimate goal.

“I have problems letting people in and I’m learning that it’s okay to ask for help from my friends and family and people who care about me,” said Kyle Ginkel, a junior exercise science major who attended the event.

Other people, like Chris Boardway, a senior biological sciences major, were affected in a different way.

“I haven’t personally experienced depression or thoughts of suicide, but I learned that I need to listen more closely to friends or family that may not know that I’m there for them if they need me,” Boardway said.

Hundreds of students attended the event and it was clear to Thom Neill, a licensed clinical social worker, counselor at UB and coordinator of Wednesday’s event that the number of e-mails he received meant that TWLOHA reached a lot of people.

“The main message that TWLOHA is trying to get across is that no matter who we are, there is overlap. We all share happiness, pain and humanity. We’re all alike,” Neill said.
- Spectrum - The University at Buffalo (Rachel Lamb, Asst. Life Editor)


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Jamie Tworkowski is the founder of To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA), a non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide. TWLOHA began in 2006 as Tworkowski's attempt to help a friend and tell a story. He posted a blog on MySpace and began selling t-shirts as a way to pay for his friend's treatment. Sparked by the support of bands such as Switchfoot, Anberlin, and Paramore, the t-shirts quickly became something of a phenomenon within the music realm. Three years later, TWLOHA now has the largest online audience of any non-profit on MySpace and Facebook, with over 700,000 followers. The TWLOHA team has responded to nearly 100,000 messages from more than 40 countries, in addition to giving nearly $500,000 directly to treatment and recovery.

Tworkowski has been interviewed by the NBC Nightly News, CNN, MTV, and SPIN Magazine, and his TWLOHA blog is one of the most-read blogs on MySpace. Tworkowski speaks frequently, bringing a message of hope and community to audiences at universities and concerts throughout the US and as far away as Australia and the United Kingdom. He is 29 years old and lives in Satellite Beach, Florida.