To Write Love on Her Arms

I’m going to be serious this morning, so brace yourselves.

Tomorrow is the day “To Write Love on Her Arms”, a movement that got started in February of 2006.  It’s a non-profit movement “presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide.  TWLOHA exists to encourage, inform, inspire and also to invest directly into treatment and recovery.”

Their vision for those who suffer:

The vision is that we actually believe these things…

You were created to love and be loved.  You were meant to live life in relationship with other people, to know and be known. You need to know that your story is important and that you’re part of a bigger story.  You need to know that your life matters.

We live in a difficult world, a broken world.  My friend Byron is very smart – he says that life is hard for most people most of the time.  We believe that everyone can relate to pain, that all of us live with questions, and all of us get stuck in moments.  You need to know that you’re not alone in the places you feel stuck.

We all wake to the human condition.  We wake to mystery and beauty but also to tragedy and loss.  Millions of people live with problems of pain.  Millions of homes are filled with questions – moments and seasons and cycles that come as thieves and aim to stay.  We know that pain is very real.  It is our privilege to suggest that hope is real, and that help is real.

You need to know that rescue is possible, that freedom is possible, that God is still in the business of redemption.  We’re seeing it happen.  We’re seeing lives change as people get the help they need.  People sitting across from a counselor for the first time.  People stepping into treatment.  In desperate moments, people calling a suicide hotline.  We know that the first step to recovery is the hardest to take.  We want to say here that it’s worth it, that your life is worth fighting for, that it’s possible to change.

Beyond treatment, we believe that community is essential, that people need other people, that we were never meant to do life alone.

The vision is that community and hope and help would replace secrets and silence.

The vision is people putting down guns and blades and bottles.

The vision is that we can reduce the suicide rate in America and around the world.

The vision is that we would learn what it means to love our friends, and that we would love ourselves enough to get the help we need.

The vision is better endings.  The vision is the restoration of broken families and broken relationships.  The vision is people finding life, finding freedom, finding love.  The vision is graduation, a Super Bowl, a wedding, a child, a sunrise.  The vision is people becoming incredible parents, people breaking cycles, making change.

The vision is the possibility that your best days are ahead.

The vision is the possibility that we’re more loved than we’ll ever know.

The vision is hope, and hope is real.

You are not alone, and this is not the end of your story.

  • According to the World Health Organization someone commits suicide every 40 seconds.
  • In 2008, 815,000 lost their lives due to suicide.  That is more than double the amount of people who died as a result of armed conflict (306, 600).
  • Suicide is the 4th leading cause of death for people between 15-44.
  • Suicide is the 6th leading cause of disability and infirmary worldwide.
  • Men are more 4 times more likely to commit suicide while women are more likely to attempt it.
  • Research shows there is a direct correlation between sexual abuse and lifetime attempts at suicide.  This is twice as high for women.
  • The rate of suicide in Canada is 15/100,000 but higher for certain groups like Inuit Peoples (65-70/100,000).
  • Christmas is not when suicides occur the most, in fact, memories of family and loved ones act as a buffer.
  • Late July and August hold the highest suicide rates for the entire year.  Studies show that it’s the time of year when personal changes are most likely to occur.  Either people feel crippled by the dramatic changes or powerless when things continue to stagnate.
  • In the last 45 years suicide rates have gone up 60% worldwide.
  • Mental health disorders are linked with 90% of all suicides.
  • Youth suicide is increasing at the greatest rate.

It’s no small wonder suicide is happening at such an incredible rate.  The social stigma attached with mental illness is so great that it keeps people (between 1/2 and 2/3s) from seeking treatment.  Did you know that among teens, 8.3% of them will suffer with depression for a year at a time compared to 5.3% for the rest of the population.

Self injury is almost always a result of depression, and it starts out providing some relief from the symptoms of depression.  In 1996, Princess Diana admitted to struggling with self injury for 10 years, and up until that point it had been considered something of a mystery.  Experts say that 4% of the population struggles with self injury, and it happens equally between males and females (even though pop culture would have you believe it’s prevalent with girls).  It is an addiction.  It is a coping mechanism to deal with internal struggles.

I’ve had both friends and family deal with all of these issues.  That’s why I believe in something like TWLOHA.  I know that it’s really something that kids and some  young adults are going to do, and probably not adults.  But that’s alright, because if we start with these new generations (and work on my own) and completely destroy the stigma.  We need to reduce these numbers.  We need to make it okay for someone feel safe to admit they have a mental illness, that they are feeling suicidal and that someone will listen, will not judge them, and will help them get better.

Tomorrow, write love on your arms.

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