Chad Moses. Photo: Courtesy of Organization
There’s a really good chance that you have no idea about the guy pictured above, or the organization To Write Love On Her Arms. TWLOHA is a non-profit whose sole mission is to help those struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide and whose message has helped countless people who deal with such issues daily. Started a decade ago, the organization helps those in need whether it be through treatment facilities or just by offering someone to reach out to. With appearances at over forty events throughout the country, TWLOHA has been able to spread the word about programs in every city that they attend an event at. This weekend, the organization adds Free Press Summer Fest to their list of festivals where they offer help and information to those in need. Free Press Houston sat down with events coordinator, Chad Moses to find out a little more about them and what they can offer to those at the festival while they’re here over the next couple of days.
FPH: Can you explain a little about how the organization got started, the film, and what you do today for those in need of help with addiction, depression, self-injury and suicide?
Chad Moses: To Write Love on Her Arms is a non-profit organization dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for those struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide. TWLOHA exists to encourage, inspire, inform, and also to invest directly into treatment and recovery. This all began 10 years ago, with no intention on becoming what it is today. Originally it was just about helping a friend and an attempt to tell her story. The movie that was recently released by Sony Pictures — also called “To Write Love on Her Arms” — is a theatrical retelling of a story written by our founder Jamie Tworkowski that described our friend Renee’s first 5 days in recovery from cocaine addiction and finding help with self-injury in the context of community. Back in 2006, Jamie’s story found it’s home on MySpace and on some level, To Write Love on Her Arms exists as a response to people responding to that original story. Now, 10 years later, we hope to be a bridge to connect anyone who is looking for help to that help. Our programs are designed to meet people where they are, challenge stigma, and find creative to partner with and fund avenues for help.
FPH: The organization is in its tenth year, aside from getting the word out online and at places like Free Press Summer Fest, what other events do you do and how much money have you raised in the past decade?
Moses: As I mentioned above, it is important for us to meet people where they are, where they naturally come together. This includes schools, social media, and live music events. Each year, we seem to grow our roster of music festivals in an attempt to engage people where they feel most alive. Events like the Warped Tour, Sasquatch, FPSF, Bonnaroo, Rock on the Range, Firefly, and so many more have become a sort of home away from home. Through having a presence at these – and nearly 40 other festivals throughout the year – we have been able to distribute thousands of localized mental health resource guides and help fund our programs and fuel conversation via merchandise sells. Beyond our own programming, we have been able to give over $1.6 million to other organizations and entities that provide life-saving and transforming services.
FPH: Suicide has become prevalent on college campuses in recent years, can you explain what your UChapters do for those in need and how would students go about starting their own UChapter at one of the many campuses here in Houston?
Moses: The hope for our UChapters is serve as a manifestation of our values and mission on university and college campuses. That is to say, our UChapters are at their best when they are serving as a voice to challenge stigma surrounding mental health within their communities and point their peers in the direction of hope and help. It is an unfortunate truth that many college students are unaware of the resources that are available to them at little to no cost. These years represent some of the most psychologically and emotionally taxing times of an individual’s life and yet there is this false, yet deeply rooted, belief that you ought not ask for help. Many people who are struggling never ask for help because they either don’t now they are ALLOWED to ask, or they don’t know WHO to ask. It is our hope that the students involved in the UChapters can find creative ways to address those two areas. If you are curious about starting a UChapter, we have a great opportunity for you to learn more and take those first steps by way of our Supporter Conference which is taking place this summer. Check out our website for more info or email us.
FPH: When someone buys any product from you at a festival or on your online store, what percentage of their purchase guys into treatment and recovery for those in need?
Moses: The way our non-profit is set up, we are funded primarily through individual donations and the sale of merchandise. All of the money we bring in from those sales goes to directly fund our programs and fulfill our mission. Much of our programming is outreach-centric in nature as we seek to encourage, inform, and inspire people to connect to avenues for help, but a significant piece of our activity includes investing financially into treatment centers, counseling opportunities, and crisis intervention services. Such giving is not set up on a percentage scale, but it has amounted to over $1.6 million since this project began. To learn more about the organizations we have funded in the past and continue to support, please visit our Finances page. From time to time we also release collaborative t-shirt designs to help raise awareness and money for specific causes such as USACare and Preemptive Love. You can find those designs on our website.
FPH: What can people learn from you at the festival and do you offer any services for those who cannot attend the festival this weekend?
Moses: The hope of setting up at festivals like FPSF is not so much to make people aware of these issues. The reality is, people already know that they exist. The goal is to advance the conversation from a cognizance to compassion. We want attendees to know that their lives matter, their joy and their pain matters, that they are heard and valued and cared for. That if this past week or month or year or decade has been hard, that help exists. That it is okay to not be okay, but you never need to feel alone in those moments. At our booth, we will have printed resource guides for the bigger cities that are sending folks to the festival. In case you can’t pick up one of those pamphlets, the same information can be found here. We are also always available over email, so if you have any questions please give us a shout.
You can find out more about To Write Love On Her Arms at either the festival grounds or at the organization’s website found here. There’s a really good chance that you or someone you know could benefit from the information and services the group provides. If you’re attending the festival, stop by and at least grab some information about this amazing group, for someone you know that needs someone to talk to at the least. And if you don’t have tickets for the two-day festival yet, remember that gates are at 11 am and tickets are between $92.50 and $999.