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If You Feel Too Much: Jamie Tworkowski on TWLOHA, Life and Hope


College can be incredibly hard. You're trying to succeed in class, live on your own for the first time, make new friends, not spend all your money, land an amazing internship for the summer... Oh, and you better make sure this all looks incredible on Instagram. All this is enough of a juggling act if you're in a great frame of mind, but it's damn near impossible if you're struggling with mental illness — and an increasingly huge number of college students are. USA Today College reports that nearly half of college students felt hopeless in the past year and that suicide is the No. 2 leading cause of death among those ages 15-34.

But if you're feeling lost or can't yet see a light at the end of the tunnel, know that you are far from alone in your struggle and that there is help available. To Write Love on Her Arms is a nonprofit that exists for people with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide to find the hope and help they need. Founder Jamie Tworkowski caught up with Her Campus over email to tell us more about TWLOHA, the expanded edition of If You Feel Too Much and what's next:

Her Campus: Convincing a millennial to cozy up with a book can be a pretty hard task these days. Why should people, particularly college students, read If You Feel Too Much and what are you hoping they gain from the experience?

Jamie Tworkowski: "i'm obviously biased but i suppose they should read it to feel less alone, to be encouraged, to laugh, perhaps to cry, to think, and to reflect on their story. More than anything, the goal is that the book would let them know it's okay to be honest and it's okay to ask for help."

HC: You share so many personal experiences and feelings in this book from the deaths of your friends and notes to your Mom to your life in New York and the growth of To Write Love on Her Arms – a lot of ups and downs. If you could only choose one, which passage is most significant to you and your journey?

JT: "Obviously, the original 'To Write Love on Her Arms' story changed my life, but i'm gonna go with 'There Is Still Some Time.' i wrote it in response to the death of Robin Williams and it's where the title of the book comes from. It's not about the life or death of Robin Williams, it's my message to anyone who might be struggling. i wouldn't say it's my 'favorite' piece or even my best writing, but it feels like the most important."

HC: As a former journalism major, I have to ask: The letter “I” is rarely, if ever, capitalized in your writings, whether in your blogs or in this book. Why?

JT: "Just a subtle attempt at humility. Just how i write for some reason. i think i stole it from Jon Foreman, but at this point i'm not even sure if that's true. i didn't expect the editor to go for it but she did (smiley face)."

HC: Music seems to be a huge part of your life, this book and how TWLOHA provides support and increases awareness for those struggling with addiction, depression, self-injury and suicidal thoughts. Why is music so important to your message? Which bands do you find have the most powerful messages?

JT: "Music has had a unique place in TWLOHA going back to the very beginning. The first person to wear one of our shirts was Jon Foreman from the band Switchfoot. Certainly, a lot of people were introduced to TWLOHA through the support of bands, but our connection of music goes way beyond 'marketing.' i just think music has the unique ability to be incredibly honest, to remind us that it's okay to feel things deeply, okay to ask questions. So if we're trying to invite people to talk about things that aren't often talked about, there's a lot we can learn and borrow from music." 

HC: The issues you discuss profoundly affect college students and you write about visiting Butler University. Why is reaching people at this age so important? Have you had any experiences at other universities that stayed with you?

JT: "Well, we know the issues we talk about - things like depression, addiction, and suicide—these things exist on college campuses. So there's that but equally important is the simple fact that we've been embraced by that community. We get so many invitations to bring the TWLOHA conversation to colleges and universities, so it's really come to feel like home. i love it because college students tend to be open-minded. You're in a room full of people who are early in their stories and there's the feeling that you can talk about anything." 

HC: A big part of the discussion surrounding suicide and this year’s National Suicide Prevention Week was the recent CDC report that states the suicide rate in America is the highest it’s been in 30 years and that the rate among women in the US has seen one of the biggest jumps. In 2014, the CDC also reported that although men are more likely to die by suicide, females attempt suicide more often than men. How does our society affect these statistics? What is needed for change?

JT: "The two statistics that really stand out to me are these: Untreated depression is the leading cause of suicide, and two out of three people who struggle with depression never get help for it. So i think that's where the focus needs to be: We have to encourage people to get help. Which means we have to push back at the stigma that suggests it's not okay to struggle with depression and it's not okay to talk about it. Those are simply lies. We are working toward a world where it's simply normal to talk about mental health, and it's normal to ask for help. If your car breaks, you take it to a mechanic. If you break your leg or you break your arm, you go to the hospital. Mental health should be the exact same way: If you need help, you get help." 

HC: Many Her Campus contributors share their experiences with addiction, depression, self-injury and suicidal thoughts on our site. How can they and our readers get involved with TWLOHA on their campuses or in their community?

JT: "We have a whole section of our website devoted to answering that question:  https://twloha.com/get-involved/ i like to tell people it can be as small as buying a t-shirt or as big as moving to Florida and joining our team, with a whole bunch of options in between." 

HC: What has been the most rewarding part of writing and promoting If You Feel Too Much? Of your journey with TWLOHA?

JT: "The most rewarding part of both is that i get to meet people who say they're getting help because of this work i get to do. i meet people who say they're still alive because of TWLOHA. It's hard to imagine anything more rewarding than that." 

HC: What’s next – for you and for TWLOHA? Can we expect another book anytime soon? 

JT: "For TWLOHA, my hope is that we will continue to be honest and creative and bold in bringing our message to all sorts of people in all sorts of places. From social media to Warped Tour to college campuses to professional sports, i love that we get to exist in all of these different circles at the same time. As for me, i'm going to keep writing and keep speaking and keep playing my part on behalf of TWLOHA. There will definitely be a second book. i'm not sure when but i'm happy to say i've started working on it." 

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