The Movement That Helped Me Become a Mental Health Advocate.

 By Jenn

                 The To Write Love on Her Arms Movement is a movement that was created in the United States. It was a story that was based on a girl’s struggle of depression, drug addiction and bipolar disorder. Jamie Tworkowski, the founder of To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA) wrote the story of Renee and what she endured in her life prior to entering rehab. Renee’s story started a movement where people started posting their own mental health issues and it spread like wild fire. Now TWLOHA is a worldwide movement where everyone all over the world has heard about the TWLOHA movement and Renee’s story.

                Back in 2008, I heard about this movement from one of my Youth Pastors at Brooklin Village Church in Brooklin, Ontario. It started off with Steve Jensen wearing his To Write Love on Her Arms t-shirt at one of his band performances when he was part of the Nine-Oh-Five. From there it was turning up everywhere I looked. When I was going through high school at Donald A. Wilson in Whitby, Ontario we would have To Write Love on Her Arms days. It would not be an official event where people had tables set up somewhere in the school, but a lot of people participated anyway. This is partially where my idea started, where I became completely immersed in mental health issues.

                I have always had a heart towards helping people whether it was giving people advice over simple issues, such as relationship problems, to helping people that were committing self-harm. Later on in high school I had 2 best friends that would hurt themselves due to many different reasons. Seeing this happening to my friends completely upset me. It did not upset me as much as some people would if they were completely oblivious to the situation. At this time I understood the whole “emo” look and would be partially desensitized to the idea of self-harm since it was portrayed in that lifestyle and in music such as Hawthorne Heights.

                But I still tried my hardest to help them through their issues, for example, trying to take a razor from one of my friends to prevent her from hurting herself in the near future. But at the age I was at the time I was not experienced or trained to do so effectively and did not have the information to understand that I should have reported it at the time.

                I still remember using this one story that seemed to help, or at least in my eyes did. It was the “Nail in the Fence” story. This story is about a father that asked his son to put nails in the fence for every time he lost his temper. After the nails were placed the father asked the boy to remove the nails. Then he explained that the fence will always have those holes and will never look the same. Now this story refers to the boy’s anger, but I changed this story to reflect the cuts on people’s wrists and how it is not only affecting you but it also affects the people that care about them. At the time I would tell them that people do care about them and when people see these cuts they are also affected and not just them.

                At the time I was 15-16 years of age and did not understand that it was more about the person than it was about the people around them. But in a way I saw it as the people that were doing this did not want to hurt anyone else but themselves, so knowing that they are hurting other people would help them stop their self-harm.

                Now having the knowledge of To Write Love on Her Arms movement and helping out my friends as much as I could, it led me more towards mental health with increased projects in self-harm and suicide. It was a growing passion inside me over the years as it is still to this day.

                Today I am finishing up my undergrad in Psychology and going off to a college where I am going to be taking a program that has either to do with addictions or addictions and mental health. But, to understand how I went from helping people with self-harm to wanting to go into addictions, people have to understand that self-harm is an addiction just like how drinking is an addiction. The people that self-harm get into this rhythm and when they do not hurt themselves they have this urge to do it again because it becomes “their normal”. Now this is not for everyone, some do it to have a release, but to others it is seen as a normal everyday thing. Therefore, going into addictions was my way of helping people with self-harm and suicide. It may have changed to different focuses over the years since Canada does not have many addiction facilities that focus on self-harm and I do not see myself going to the United States to do so.

                But now that society and government facilities are seeing that addictions and mental health are so intertwined I can have the “best of both worlds” so to speak, I can help in addictions but also stay close to my passion of mental health advocacy.

                I definitely owe it partially to TWLOHA movement for where I am today and still look towards them as a special part of my life when it comes to my own mental health struggles. Having the word love in German (Liebe) on my wrist definitely symbolizes my love and gratitude towards the movement and other reasons that I am not ready to discuss.

                As a message to everyone that is struggling with their mental health, I want you all to know that you are loved. Even if you do not feel that you are loved, you are by me. I know it does not make sense for a person to love another person that they do not know. But in my heart it makes complete sense since no one should feel alone or unloved and I have so much love to give that it is impossible for me not to love every single person, hurting or not hurting. You are not alone.

Forever and Always,

Jenn Snell

Jack.Org Representative