Jamie Tworkowski
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Jamie Tworkowski

Cocoa, Florida, United States

Cocoa, Florida, United States
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The best kept secret in music



Hey Theo!

To follow up, the event with Jamie Tworkowski was great! I think the students really got a lot out of the presentation and really enjoyed hearing from Jamie. I have copied the organizer of the event, Drew Midgette, to this e-mail so that he can provide further feedback on the event. Although I attended and prepared the contract, Drew really was the person behind all of the efforts and would have more useful feedback. Thanks for following up with us! - James Madison University

"“From Surfboard to Surfing the Net: Giving a Lifeline to Others-- A blog post about a suicidal 19-year-old cocaine addict became the catalyst for a wildly successful and unconventional suicide prevention program.”"

"I think the heart of the matter is that a lot of people feel alone. A lot of people feel stuck. There are people in need of hope. Help too, but I think it starts with hope. It takes hope for someone to take a step toward help. We're doing our best to present hope, to let people know they're not alone, to let them know that it's possible to change, it's possible to start over," says Jamie Tworkowski.
Purveyor of Hope
It's hard to explain the awesome phenomenon that is Jamie Tworkowski, and his uber successful suicide prevention nonprofit, To Write Love on Her Arms. Consider this man of compelling contrasts: He is not a licensed therapist, yet hundreds of thousands of young people who are depressed, confused, lonely, addicted or suicidal seek his counsel. He is a college dropout prone to wearing hoodies and jeans even when participating at professional mental health conferences. Yet, in spite of his relaxed appearance, he has earned the respect of buttoned down psychologists and social workers everywhere. And he doesn't work out of a traditional office per se (although he has bunked with some of the staff that works for his organization) and even so, through his own maverick means, he has effectively reached those who need help via Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, his website and even through music fests at venues like House of Blues and college campuses.
Who exactly is he helping? Maybe it's a loner thinking about taking pills, or a rager filled with regret over his last booze-filled rampage, or an innocent who has felt the barbs of bullying by her classmates. Whatever the impetus, they all have sought Tworkowski's lifeline and found solace in the self-help offered by the connection to TWLOHA. His organization has given more than $750,000 in support of treatment programs and has responded to more than 150,000 messages and emails across 100-plus countries.

Jamie Tworkowski was a twenty-something wave rider who spent his days selling hip Hurley clothing and nights on the indie music scene. Today, he spends his time lifting the spirits of the downtrodden. In 2006, through a friend, he happened to meet Renee, a 19-year-old woman who was so depressed that she cut up her arms writing F#@-k Up. Tworkowski was so moved by her plight, he wrote a compelling blog post about her on his MySpace page entitled To Write Love on Her Arms, suggesting that instead of the carvings in her arm, he'd like to write love on her arms.

The blog post gained traction, and soon there were TWLOHA T-shirts printed up that he and his musician friends began selling to help pay for her treatment. The initiative went viral and before long, Tworkowski became a new and trendsetting kind of guru, connecting with a generation of troubled teens and young adults, and providing help and guidance through virtual media and musical festivals. TWLOHA grew organically to serve as a sort of matrix of help, support, information and connection.

Alternative Success
According to the National Institutes of Mental Health, untreated depression is the number one cause of suicide and suicide is the third leading cause of death among teenagers. An estimated 121 million people around the globe suffer from depression and two thirds of those suffering depression never seek treatment.

Madelyn Gould, a Columbia University professor in psychiatry, says she remembers setting eyes on Tworkowski at a 2009 conference speaking on how to harness new media to support mental health services and prevent suicide. "He was dressed like a surfer dude guy and I think that's his strength that he reflects a youth culture that is recognizable to other young people," says Gould. "He is reaching vulnerable people in a comfortable way. I remember thinking at the time how motivated he was, what a dynamic personality. I remember being touched by his enthusiasm. He is willing to do whatever it takes. He is a mover and a shaker." She calls his work "wonderful."

Tworkowski dresses down his own importance as the force behind TWLOHA, even though wherever he goes, young people recognize him, hug him, ask for his autograph or thank him for saving their life.

"We're not at all saying we're better than mainstream mental health professionals. We believe in counseling and treatment. We do our best to serve as a bridge to it and we invest (financially) in it. The simple reality is that a lot of young people are knocking on our door before they knock on the door of professional help, perhaps because they relate to TWLOHA, they relate to the way we're communicating and operating. And then it's our job to serve as a bridge, to encourage people to take the step to getting the help they need and deserve," says Tworkowski.

Tworkowski says he had accidentally stumbled upon this particular career path after he happened to meet Renee, and not long after losing a friend and Hurley coworker to suicide. He realized there was a deep need for outreach when so many people responded to his initial e - Tonic, September 24, 2010, Annie Driscoll



THANKS so much for the wonderful event last night. Everyone was really moved by it and it definitely made an impact. We got A LOT of names for our ongoing events.

I was very happy that you felt welcomed and supported by our campus. We were really thrilled to have you here. We wished you had more time to enjoy the area and for us to entertain you.

Again, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! We were honored to have you here. We hope to bring you back. Let’s cross our fingers that we get our grant renewed. - SUNY Buffalo

"“Suicide prevention organization writes its own story”"

I believe hope is a thing that I will find sometime/if someone just will show me, belted Noah of Noah Gundersen and the Courage under the colored stage lights in Bovard Auditorium. His lyrics set the tone for the evening.
On Monday, members of the non-profit organization To Write Love On Her Arms visited USC to promote awareness about its mission to provide aid to those struggling with depression and addiction.
“No one deserves to do life alone,” said founder Jamie Tworkowski. “Help is real. Hope is real.”
Sitting on a stool in black jeans and a grey thermal, he spoke about how the movement unexpectedly began.
In January 2006, while Tworkowski was working in Florida, one of his co-workers committed suicide. Tworkowski’s boss gave his team only 30 minutes to deal with the suicide before getting back to work. The company wouldn’t discuss the death or the broader topic of suicide prevention.
With his co-worker’s death still on his mind, Tworkowski met a girl named Renee through a mutual friend. According to Tworkowski, Renee had been through years of addiction and had a history of both depression and self-injury. She was lost while surrounded by friends who sent her discouraging and condescending messages about using drugs and not getting help. When Renee attempted to get help, she was denied entry to a treatment center because it was not equipped with the necessary “detox” period she needed. At this point, Tworkowski and his friends stepped in.
“We spent five days with her, keeping her sober. There was a sense of privilege, being able to be there with this girl who had been through so much,” Tworkowski recalled.
His friends tried to tell Renee that blanket words like “sobriety,” “healing” and “freedom” could be real. Mid-week, Tworkowski asked a question he thought Renee would surely be unwilling to answer: “Will you tell your story?”
Renee agreeed, prompting the creation of To Write Love On Her Arms.
Tworkowski wrote a two-page post about Renee’s struggle on the social network site MySpace. It was never a business plan to Tworkowski or his friends, but a way to articulate their belief that there is something better for everyone struggling with problems like addiction, self-injury and depression. The price of Renee’s treatment, however, prompted Tworkowski to make shirts and sell them to people he knew, including the lead singer of Switchfoot. The musician wore the shirt at a concert in Florida, which in turn jumpstarted traffic on the MySpace page. Today, the non-profit To Write Love On Her Arms has received more than 100,000 messages from over 100 countries.
The mission of To Write Love on Her Arms is “presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide.” The group exists to encourage, inform and directly invest in treatment and recovery.
“It resonates with anyone who is alive. It speaks into broken places in people’s lives where darkness is,” said Rich Sullivan, a team member and old friend of Tworkowski. “Whether you’re 10 years old or 70 years old, pain is universal.”
Most members of Tworkowski’s team were moved by Renee’s story or had a similar experience that made them want to get involved.
“It was not a smart business decision for anybody,” Sullivan said, chuckling. The movement is powered instead by the belief that every life holds the same value and meaning.
Tworkowski spoke of the all-encompassing nature of To Write Love On Her Arms.
“It’s not just white people, these are not just ‘emo’ problems,” he said. “This is part of being human around the world. All of us know what pain feels like.”
The project is extremely relevant in a time when depression is the third leading underlying cause of death among 15- to 24-year-olds in the United States; yet two-thirds of people with depression never seek treatment.
“They all live in this place, but they are living alone in this place,” Tworkowski added.
According to Tworkowski, those who are feeling sadness or sorrow are more likely to stay quiet than reach out.
“We say friends and family are the closest to us, yet we can’t even reach out to them. It’s scary,” counselor Aaron Moore explained.
This is why Tworkowski believes community is important for those fighting the darkness within.
“Life has nothing to do with how many Facebook friends you have, but with the people who actually know your struggles and dreams — which are not always so far apart,” Tworkowski said. “[Getting help] will be worth it.” - Daily Trojan (USC), September 30, 2009, By Cassidy Duckett

"“Band Interview: 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 on - Redefine Mag, October 9, 2009, By Alana Rome

"“Surfer to Savior: Jamie Tworkowki, Founder of To Write Love on Her Arms”"

It's just past noon in Atlanta, where the Warped Tour is in full swing, but already Jamie Tworkowski has hugged 79 people, posed for 56 photographs, signed 42 autographs, blotted the tears of 13 young girls (and two teenage boys), and heard the words "you saved my life" at least a dozen times. He has seen phrases he wrote tattooed on torsos and legs, held a woman's hand while she wept for her dead son, and shared his cherry sno-cone with a stranger who proclaims he wants to be just like Tworkowski — "just so fucking righteous, man!"
Tworkowski, a 29-year-old surfer dude and college dropout, has become a new kind of guru to a generation of troubled teenagers, the father of an accidental movement, if one believes in accidents, which Tworkowski does not. His message is pretty standard-issue savior — touchy-feely, vaguely Christian, mixed with industrial-strength empathy — but his delivery is radically different from the usual feel-your-pain smarm so common among the self-help crowd. He's disarmingly sincere, surfer-handsome and so completely, unequivocally genuine that he can turn the most jaded, eye-rolling, authority-questioning anarchist into a quivering, weeping supplicant. The organization he founded three years ago, To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA), already boasts the largest audience of any nonprofit on MySpace, deluged with more than 100,000 messages — many of them suicide notes — from kids in more than 100 countries. If you are a bulimic cheerleader, a loner with violent thoughts, a pretty goth girl who likes to make like Lindsay and draw a sharp blade across your arm, chances are that the shrinks and guidance counselors you've been sent to see will strike you as full of shit. Tworkowski is the one person who'll get through to you — through Twitter or Facebook or a rock concert or, if you're lucky, with an old-fashioned hug.
"I didn't mean to start a charity," Tworkowski says, sipping bottled water as he takes a break from autograph-signing in TWLOHA's tent at the Warped Tour. "Or a movement. But all of us can relate to pain. On a very simple level we are saying, 'This is part of being human.'"
When he appears onstage, Tworkowski is humble, shy, almost recessive. He dresses in jeans or shorts and concert tees. His cadence is like spoken-word poetry: broken, muted, hypnotic. He is the kind of person that people reverse-anthropomorphize, describing him as a "little lamb" or "Bambi-like." He is also supremely good-looking — six feet three, lithe, with deep-set eyes, swollen lips and a nonthreatening andro vibe. If he's Bambi, he's a Bambi many people would like to bang.
At the TWLOHA tent, a steady stream of girls and a handful of boys line up, waiting for their moment in Tworkowski's company. They bounce and fidget, they scratch imaginary itches, they squeal. The other nonprofit tents — Invisible Children, Boarding for Breast Cancer, Music Saves Lives — have no lines, no throngs of eager youth damp with anticipation. At the front of the line, a girl in a string bikini leans forward, her chest thrust out. "Do you sign tits?" she asks Tworkowski.
Tworkowski is unfazed by all the attention. "It's not really about me," he says as he signs the girl's arm. "They just associate me with something that means something to them. If you think about what's at stake, it's understandable people respond the way they do. Part of what we do is believe things. Believe our stories can have a better ending."
But a few folks around Tworkowski are worried on his behalf. What happens to the Samaritan when he becomes viewed as a savior? How much can you give of yourself before there's nothing left to give? And how does a servant of the people keep himself from turning into just another shill — or worse, from slipping into self- regard? "Jamie has gotten bigger than life," laments his father, Joe, a solar-energy designer and his son's surfing buddy. "People seem to think he has the answer. You know — the answer!"
TWLOHA started in 2006, when Tworkowski was a music-loving surf kid, rubbing elbows and making friends with indie-band members he met through his job as a sales rep for a hip surfing clothing company. He was going out to hear bands most nights, hitting the beach to ride most mornings. One day, a friend who wanted company and moral support asked Tworkowski if he'd mind driving with him across town to help a drug- addicted teenager named Renee Yohe who was threatening to kill herself. "I'd never had an encounter like that," Tworkowski says, "never tried to help someone in the middle of an addiction, someone who committed self-injury."
It was a stark departure for a beach bum who grew up chasing waves, not junkies. "That meeting changed my whole life," he says. "It put me face to face with the reality of suffering and made me wonder if I could do something about it." Suddenly, selling board shorts and having coffee with cool band dudes didn't seem as compelling.
A few days after, Tworkowski blogged on MySpace ab - Rolling Stone, November 25, 2009, By Allison Glock

"“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 (SUNY Buffalo)


Still working on that hot first release.



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 over 150,000 messages from more than 100 countries, in addition to investing $700,000 directly to treatment and recovery.

Tworkowski has been interviewed by the NBC Nightly News, CNN, MTV, Rolling Stone, 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.