RSO raises suicide awareness, helps those in need

For the members of To Write Love On Her Arms, making the best out of a negative situation is their specialty. TWLOHA, as it’s more commonly referred to, is a nonprofit movement that seeks to help people who struggle with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide.

The organization was started nationally by Jamie Tworkowski after witnessing the deterioration of his friend Renee due to substance abuse and self-inflicted wounds. Renee, who was 19 at the time, was not accepted into a rehab center because she was too great of a risk. Tworkowski decided to take matters into his own hands and was able to save Renee’s life.

“She was a huge success story, they were able to clean her up and she’s okay,” said Jason Dompeling, junior in ACES. “Jamie said ‘well if we’re able to help one person, there’s got to be other people around who have the same thing,’ so that’s how the organization started.”

The chapter at the University was founded last year and even though starting it up took some work, the chapter has gained recognition from outside organizations, such as the Champaign Mental Health Center. The chapter is also a good source for those who became involved with TWLOHA in high school.

“I got involved with TWLOHA in high school and have been involved with the UChapter here on campus since my freshman year,” said Amanda Mellema, junior in LAS.

Dompeling, who is the president of the University’s chapter, is looking to take a more educational stance by inviting psychology professors to meetings that can explain more about depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide.

“TWLOHA is an artsy, underground music kind of scene,” Dompeling said. “It’s cool that we’re into all the underground stuff, but we’re trying to take a more educational approach to it.”

Dompeling became interested in the organization after the suicide of his best friend in the fall of 2008.

“It was really tough, of course something like that always is, but during the spring of my senior year, I was kind of like, ‘OK, yeah this was really horrible, but what can I do to turn this around into a positive experience?’” Dompeling said.

Dompeling participated in charity walks for the American Association for Suicide Prevention and then came across TWLOHA, which is geared toward younger people.

“A part of what TWLOHA is, it’s not only a source of comfort, but it’s a healing process,” Dompeling said. “When you’re around other people who have been affected by it, you find a way to help each other out.”

Throughout the year, TWLOHA’s national chapter expects the other chapters to complete a project. Last year, the University chapter’s project was called six word memoirs. TWLOHA members set up a booth on the Quad and asked passing students to write down a memoir of their life in only six words.

“Whether it was a little bit dark or light-hearted and happy, it was really cool to see what people had to say about themselves,” Dompeling said.

This year, the University chapter’s project will be called fears vs. dreams. It’s the same idea as six word memoirs, in the fact that students will be writing down whatever they feel and the results will once again be displayed in the Psychology Building atrium.

The chapter consists of 20 to 25 solid members and there are no special requirements to being a part of the organization. In fact, Dompeling explained that many people get the notion that they have to suffer from depression in order to be part of TWLOHA, but that isn’t the case. The main point of the organization is to raise awareness and help those who are in need.