• Keeping Friends

Friendship, Cutting, and Making A Difference

Published: December 5, 2011 | Last Updated: April 27, 2016 By | 2 Replies Continue Reading

An Interview with
Jamie Tworkowski of "To Write Love on Her Arms"


Learning that a family member, friend, or anyone you care
about is contemplating suicide or engaged in self-injurious behavior is disturbing.
"Cutting" is the most common of a number of self-harming behaviors among some people
who have problems regulating their emotions.


This unhealthy way of coping with stress is often
associated with borderline personality disorder, depression, and various other
mental and emotional disorders. If you find out a friend is cutting or self-injuring, the
most important thing you can do is urge them to speak to a mental health
professional and get help.


Jamie’s Story


In 2006, Jamie Tworkowski, now
31, of Melbourne Beach, Florida had a friend who confessed to him that she was
self-mutilating and using drugs. He posted the story on his MySpace page and
sold T-shirts to raise money for her treatment. Ultimately, Jamie’s friend
received the help she needed, and he was inspired to create a non-profit
organization, To Write Love on Her Arms,
to reach others who didn’t have allies to support them through their mental
health struggles. To date, the organization has responded to 160,000 messages
from people in 100 different countries and invested $950,000 directly into
treatment and recovery


Interview with Jamie


Irene: How did you learn about
your friend’s self-injury? 

Jamie: I was told that she was
struggling with drug addiction and depression. The very night we first met, she
used a razor blade to write the word xxxx–UP across her forearm. Because of
this wound and the drugs in her system, she was denied entry to a local drug
treatment center. My friends and I spent the next five days with her – she
lived at our house – and then she entered treatment. The original "To
Write Love on Her Arms" story on MySpace was written about those five days
we spent together.  


Irene: Had you heard about or
had you understood self-injury before? How did you react? 

Jamie: I think I had heard of it, but I
had never met someone who actually struggled with it.  When I met her, she
was at a place of wanting to get help, so we simply tried to provide love and
support in the time before she was able to enter treatment. The friend I was
living with was (and is) in recovery so he very much took the lead. To me, then
and now, there was something beyond the self-injury. That was a symptom of a
greater problem. We stayed up late every night, getting to know this girl and
her story, and she was asking some big questions, like "Is it possible to
change?" and "Is it possible to start over?"  


Irene: How prevalent is the problem? Is
there any information about why it is more prevalent among women? 

Jamie: More women than men struggle
with self-injury, but we think it’s important to acknowledge that guys struggle
with this as well. There is a stereotype and stigma that guys are supposed to
be tough, supposed to have it all together, so I think that makes it even
harder for guys to talk about their pain. It can be linked to sexual abuse and
the abuse of sexuality, the pain and shame and regret that come with those
things. It’s certainly not exclusive to those things though. 


Irene: What role do you think
TWLOHA can play in raising awareness of this problem? What other goals does the
organization have? 

Jamie: We don’t use the words
"raising awareness" very much. We believe our primary role is
to offer hope and encouragement to people struggling. We try to let people know
that they’re not alone, that they deserve to have a support system – other
people they can lean on, that it’s okay to ask for help and that when it comes
to help, some great resources exist. We’ve learned that most people who need
help don’t get it, so we’re working to change that. We try to point to those
resources, and we also give financially to those resources.    


Irene: What role can a friend or relative play in
helping someone who self-injures?

Jaime: It’s not very different from
knowing someone who struggles with depression. The problem is pain. Talk to
them. Be honest. Ask questions. Listen. Encourage them to get help. Let them
know you’re with them, you’re not going to give up on them, that you’re willing
to be part of the process of their recovery. In terms of recovery, we believe
that counseling is a great place to start. 


You Can Support To Write Love on Her Arms

To Write Love on Her Arms is one of five finalists eligible to win up
to $1 million at the first annual Chase American
Giving Awards
, hosted by Bob Costas, which will air
on NBC on December 10th at 8pm. The winning charity will be
determined by Facebook votes garnered from December 1 – 8, 2011.
You can vote for To Write Love on Her Arms once daily at http://www.twloha.com/blog/8-days-8-votes-1.




If you or someone you know needs
help because they are cutting or self-injuring, check out these resources:


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Comments (2)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    ‘Thank you for this article. At Step Up! International we work with teachers and the education sector to assist them to look beyond the self harming behaviour and at the possible underlying issues and that self harm is not about attention seeking, but rather a strategy that young people use to manage emotional distress.’ http://www.stepup-international.co.uk

  2. Irene says:

    To Write Love on Her Arms was selected as the first recipient of the American Giving Awards on tonight’s NBC Broadcast!

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