Just under a decade ago, you couldn't have a successful emo or pop punk music video without at least one To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA) shirt. As much as they were a nonprofit organization assisting people who were struggling with depression and suicide, they were also a bit of a fashion statement.
Much like those Livestrong wristbands you've long since forgotten about, TWLOHA isn't much of a fashion statement anymore, but the movement and message are continuing as strong as ever. At nearly every major festival across the country, you'll still find the TWLOHA tent standing strong, offering clothing (for sale), support and information to anyone who cares to hear it.
More than arguably any other organization, TWLOHA's cause has been tied to alternative music for the last decade. As Moses points out, even the first words in the organization's founding story were a band name, Pedro the Lion.
"Music's been at the heart of this wild ride since it began in 2006," says Chad Moses, the man who you'll often find working the TWLOHA tent at music festivals. "Literally from the first click, we've been all about music. Music is a place where a lot of us run to to make sense in our lives. Music is a place where reminds us there are things in life worth singing and dancing and screaming about. It's the energy and sense of community that music brings out that we really hope to carry forward outside of the venue."
That communal music culture is exactly what TWLOHA relies on to spread their message around the globe. The organization only has 13 full-time employees (and a few interns at any given time), so word of mouth and influence from outside of the nonprofit has been a key to its success. Moses cites bands like Switchfoot and Paramore as groups that helped the message go viral on and off the internet.
Of course, TWLOHA's goal may be to spread awareness and assistance to as many people as possible, but when an organization has expanded to reach over 100 countries, keeping everything local in specific areas can be a challenge. For the Florida-based group, that means breaking things down geographically as much as possible.
"If you go on to our website, there's a page called 'Find Help' where you can find resources by topic or geography," Moses says. "We have some OC-specific resources there. We encourage people to read up on those resources, because these are places that we believe in, that we've interviewed and invested in over the years."
Aside from learning about OC's resources for suicide and depression (whether you need the help or want to volunteer), Moses wants to remind everyone just to be nice to each other and care for each other.
"You never know what kind of day someone else is having," Moses says. "At the end of the day, it's okay to not be okay, but don't think for a second that you're in this alone."
Although TWLOHA's become so big that they've been able to donate over $1.5 million to their cause and respond to over 190,000 messages according to Moses, none of it would've been possible without individual people coming together to tell their stories and work through what they're facing. As Moses sees it, one of the primary goals of TWLOHA is to encourage more people to tell their stories.
"We just want to tell people that your life matters, that your story is important," Moses says. "Find an audience for your story, whether it's a clergy member, a friend, family member, or counselor. When we talk about suicide, we're talking about a potentially lethal end to a sense of restricted perspective. Inviting people into your story keeps us honest, they're with us on our best and worst days."
TWLOHA believes that as more people tell their stories, the connections and network they've created will grow, and those struggling with depression or suicide will realize they're not alone.
"At the very same time that you have to lean on someone else, there's going to come a time when they have to lean on you as well," Moses says. "Community is really the thing that keeps this whole thing going."
More information on TWLOHA's OC resources can be found on their website.