To Write Love on Her Arms founder Jamie J. Tworkowski did not come to Jefferson Community College on Thursday to brag about the success of his nonprofit.
Instead, he uses the organization to give people hope when they feel most alone.
Everyone is living a story thats unique and priceless and sacred, and no one can play our part, he said on the Sturtz Theater stage. What I want to suggest is that it matters.
The nonprofit last visited JCC three years ago, according to Thomas D. Wojcikowski, assistant director of student activities.
In addition to having To Write Love on Her Arms do two presentations Thursday, the college held a community health and human services resource fair in the McVean Gymnasium for the first time.
We focus our programs on what the students want, Mr. Wojcikowski said. Its a way to show students whats out there for them.
To Write Love on Her Arms started six years ago as a way to help Mr. Tworkowskis friend Renee A. Yohe recover from a vicious cycle of depression, drug abuse and self-mutilation. While telling others her story, he received messages from hundreds of people who identified with it.
Ms. Yohe also came for the presentation to sing a handful of songs she wrote while battling depression. She spoke poetically while clutching a mug of tea about the friends she lost and found during her downward spiral.
When she was in and out of hospitals, those who cared for her wanted her to promise she would never cut herself or become addicted to drugs again. Many would become frustrated when she could not make that promise in good faith.
We want to believe people can be fixed, because we want to be fixed ourselves, she said.
Her story has been filmed and was shown at the Florida Film Festival this year. She channeled her creative energy to form the band Bearcat, which released its first album in June, according to a press release from the college.
With depression being the leading cause of suicide and suicide being the third leading cause of death, the nonprofit hopes more people open up and seek help when they are feeling alone.
Its just a cultural thing that we dont talk about it, Ms. Yohe said. Its the idea that we all had to have pretty houses and that everything looked nice on the outside.
In addition to pointing to resources for depression, drug addiction and suicide, the organization has heard from people with eating disorders.
To date, it has received 175 personal messages from people in about 100 different countries, Mr. Tworkowski said.
Though he spreads a positive message and urges those who suffer from depression to speak up, he never makes the promise that there is a cure for their illness. However, he has been told by several people that his message has helped them stay alive.
We get to meet people and are told theyre still alive because were here, he said.