This past weekend we had a chance to sit down and speak with Chad Moses, from nonprofit To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA) about mental health and music. The organization has been active for 12 years now, continuing the conversation surrounding mental health, and letting people know that “it’s okay to not be okay”. This is a message that TWLOHA has sought to share time and again through campaigns like “#IWasMadeFor,” last year’s World Suicide Prevention Day/National Suicide Prevention Week campaign, which received support from Debby Ryan, Jon Foreman, and The Ready Set. Check out the interview below:
Can you tell me a little about the organization and what it’s about?
We are a nonprofit organization called To Write Love on Her Arms and we exist to present hope and give help to anyone struggling with depression, addiction, self injury, and suicide. We do that through a number of programs that are designed to encourage, inspire, inform, and to directly invest in treatment and recovery. We’re not the counselors, treatment centers, not trying to reinvent the wheel, but so often people don’t know that a wheel already exists. We’re a bridge connecting people that are looking for help.
Can you talk a about the most recent programs you had?
Most recently would be our activity here this summer, here in Dover, Delaware, at Firefly. That’s one of 40 different live music events we’re at this year. Everything we do is designed in places where people naturally meet together, whether that be a music festival or speaking at a college or high school or community of faith or really just having a presence online. Throughout the year online, we are constantly trying to create some content to cultivate some honest conversation around the issues we don’t really talk about publicly. The programs run the gamut, really from running a 5k event to being at music festivals that span all of North America to online, which puts us everywhere!
I have seen you at concerts and festivals for over a decade now, starting with Warped Tour and Bamboozle…what is it specifically about festivals that you think is special?
Music to us reminds of things that are true everywhere, not just on the festival grounds, but in our day to day life. It reminds us that there’s things in life worth singing about, dancing about, screaming about, and certainly worth sharing with one another. These festivals exist because people show up. It’s the audience that creates the atmosphere and context to every single thing that happens here. We’re not out of the ball park to say that’s also applicable in our lives. Your life, your story, also deserves an audience. The connection you feel here among strangers, that connection is also possible back home consistently and intentionally. You mentioned going to Warped and Bamboozle, and this is our 12th year of existence and we’ve had a really awesome opportunity to grow up with our audience and supporters.
I think it’s a really strong reach with the music festivals specifically.
Music has always been the fertile ground for change, at least in western society, so music gives us a voice to our frustrations and hope to grasp onto.
Can you talk about this organization’s biggest accomplishments over the 12 years you have existed?
I think turning 12 is something quite significant, not everything gets to last past a few years and a decade. I don’t think it’s necessarily anything we’ve been able to accomplish as a staff, because this is the first time we’ve met. You’ve heard about TWLOHA from someone other than me or our staff…and that’s huge! This has been a movement that has been predicated on the conversations and bravery of countless people that we are still meeting, people that tell their stories to people around them to continue some really awesome conversation.
What are some of your goals for the coming years?
We hope to be more places, be more people, we hope to work ourselves out of a job, but we have a lot of work to do in the meantime. I don’t know if we’re ever going to have the ability to end depression and addiction, suicide, but we can through conversations like this, reminding people that it’s okay to talk about these things, that it’s okay to not be okay, but you don’t have to think you’re alone with any of it. So the goal for us is to continue finding creative ways to increase visibility and access to points of consistent and intentional mental health resources.
How have you seen mental health treatment change over the past 12 years?
It’s undeniable to see the ways the conversation is continuing. We’ve seen people be more honest and careful with the language they use around mental health. People are aware that these aren’t just emo issues, white issues, women issues– these are equal opportunity issue. Just last week with the loss of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, this issue has been pushing to the spotlight. I have a friend named Claire who wrote some greats words. She said, “You don’t have to look vulnerable to be vulnerable.” I think that’s a message a lot of people resonate with, that depression doesn’t care how good you are at your job, but if you’re hurting, it’s okay to ask for help. We’re seeing that these conversations are becoming less groundbreaking and revolutionary and more commonplace. People think, “Yeah, I’m going through a tough time and I’m thinking about calling my counselor back”. More and more people we’re meeting are coming to us saying they’re attending their first festival sober and are able to connect with groups of people in recovery to make sure they can enjoy the festival and stay safe. All these things didn’t even exist 3-5 years ago, so we’ve seen some brilliant elements of self care come full front to community music experiences.