Only a few months ago, a report stated that suicide in the United States is at a 30-year high. It is a humanitarian crisis—one that Jamie Tworkowski has spent the last decade trying to fight. He’s the founder of the nonprofit To Write Love On Her Arms, which celebrated its 10-year anniversary this year, and best-selling author of If You Feel Too Much. We sat down with Tworkowski to talk about his decade of helping people find hope and healing.
What does To Write Love On Her Arms do differently than other mental health organizations?
We get to kind of run in a few different directions at once. We do a lot online; we do a lot on college campuses. Over the years we’ve shown up in places like the Warped Tour, we’ve had our T-shirts sold at Hot Topic. Right now there’s a whole bunch of women on the U.S. Women’s National Soccer team who are supporting us.
I smile at just how surprising it is all the different places that our message of hope and health has been embraced over the past 10 years.
What have you learned?
Just the need that exists—that so many people struggle and so many people feel alone. We didn’t invent hope, I didn’t scribble hope on a napkin 10 years ago and come up with it. But there’s such a need and it gives me a lot of confidence, especially 10 years in, to believe in what we’re doing and what we’re saying.
What part does your own faith play in the work you do?
Faith is the lens that we see the world through. Even if you call yourself an atheist or agnostic, no matter what you believe or don’t believe, you wake up and you place your faith in certain places. We all do. And so for me I feel like I’ve never been able to shake this idea of God who made me, who loves me, who designed me to be in a relationship not only with Him, but also with other people. A God who desires to know me and has created this life in such a way where I’m actually meant to be known by other people. So I think that definitely informs the work I do—all the way to the question why is life worth living.
What’s your advice to others who might want to launch a nonprofit?
I love to tell people that I didn’t set out to start a nonprofit. This thing started out about as small as it could with trying to help one person and trying to tell one story. And from there, as it began to take off, the next big step that I took is connecting with someone who knew how to run a nonprofit.
How have you grown personally in the last 10 years?
There was a time when I got comfortable standing on a stage and telling people it’s OK to go to counseling, it was OK to be honest, but I hadn’t really taken those steps in my own life. Over the years that has definitely changed. I am someone who has been on antidepressants for the last few years. I am someone who has gone to counseling consistently. I am someone who has taken a week in May and went away to basically an intensive therapy. And I say that with no self-pity, no regret. I am thankful for these tools that exist. So all of these things that I love to tell other people about, I think I am secure in my own need for them as well.