By Gillian Lintz
Phrases such as “You are not alone,” “You are hope,” and even the lyrics from Hannah Montana’s song, “Nobody’s Perfect” can be seen all across campus, covering the sidewalks in colorful chalk.
In honor of National Suicide Prevention Month, AU’s campus organization “To Write Love on Her Arms” has been especially active. With weekly hangouts and discussions and a variety of uplifting activities, TWLOHA is continuing to bring light to difficult subjects while creating a safe and inclusive environment for all AU students, encouraging a better understanding of mental health.
Between TWLOHA and free counseling with skilled professionals, AU continues to make mental health a priority, not just during National Suicide Prevention Month, but year-round.
In recent years, mental illness has been more common than ever and suicide rates have been at an all-time high. Despite better accuracy in diagnosis, people of all ages still struggle daily with issues like depression and anxiety, unaware that their thoughts and actions are anything more than a phase or an overreaction. Suicide is one of the leading causes of death for teenagers and young adults, feeding into the fact that mental illness is an issue that has yet to be resolved.
Fortunately, many colleges such as AU provide free counseling with top-notch professionals. Anyone can make an appointment with one of the many counselors on campus, all of whom are passionate about students and mental health. At AU, no issue is too small to discuss with a counselor. The process of making an appointment is as simple as filling out a form. AU’s counselors are vital to awareness of mental health on campus.
Along with the Counseling Department, “To Write Love on Her Arms” is also tackling mental health around campus. TWLOHA is a nonprofit national organization meant to spread hope and provide help to those struggling with depression, addiction and self-harm. Often times a stigma is placed around mental illness that keeps students from seeking assistance and understanding, but TWLOHA works to erase that stigma and spread an understanding to everyone, educating and enlightening as a supportive community.
AU’s TWLOHA event coordinator Russell Deeter describes the group’s goals as “to educate on mental health awareness and encourage students.” In regards to events, Deeter hopes to create opportunities for the group to participate in more casual activities, such as having meals together and checking out the KWC as a group. He would like to “do more things we already love doing as a group.”
While TWLOHA is active on campus throughout the entire school year, National Suicide Prevention Week is the busiest time with additional activities to spread even more awareness. One of the most significant activities is what Deeter calls the “Chalk Walk” or “The Chalkening.” Members of TWLOHA, as well as anyone else interested in helping, write hopeful and inspirational messages on sidewalks all across campus, leaving almost no concrete un-chalked.
TWLOHA also participates off-campus in a suicide prevention walk held by the City of Anderson that takes place in honor of National Suicide Prevention Week, hosting many different booths and speakers from various organizations. The group also decorates Mocha Joe’s coffee sleeves with inspirational messages, paints canvases and practices laughter yoga.
This year’s TWLOHA theme is “You make today better.” The campus group uses this phrase as a focus for activities and meetings, emphasizing that every person has a purpose and the impact of reminding oneself, “I make today better because…”
TWLOHA meets Wednesdays at 8 p.m. in Mocha Joe’s. All are welcomed with open arms at TWLOHA, and updates and announcements can be found on the club’s Twitter and Instagram @autwloha.
Too many students silently struggle with mental health issues like depression, anxiety and self-harm. Many universities don’t have great resources to combat these problems, but students at AU are fortunate enough to have fantastic resources and opportunities to get help and become informed. The counseling staff is welcoming and receptive, with counselors who have the students’ best interest in mind and who are willing to help in any way possible. The AU campus is home to TWLOHA, an organization that is always finding new ways to encourage and inform about mental health issues.
If you are struggling with depression, self-harm or suicidal thoughts, do not hesitate to reach out to family members or professionals, or call the “Suicide Hotline” at 1-800-273-8255.