Jamie Tworkowski, the founder of a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping those who suffer from depression, addiction, self-injury and suicidal tendencies, will speak at 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 22, in the auditorium of O’Shaughnessy Educational Center on the St. Paul campus of the University of St. Thomas.

The talk, free and open to the public, is titled “Pain, Hope, Questions and Community: An Evening with To Write Love on Her Arms.” It is sponsored by St. Thomas’ University Lectures Committee.

 Jamie Tworkowski

Jamie Tworkowski

In his talk, Tworkowski will discuss the 2006 origins of the organization known as To Write Love on Her Arms, or TWLOHA, and how it has become a global movement with the largest online audience of any nonprofit on MySpace and Facebook.

As Tworkowski explains on the TWLOHA Web site, the movement began with a blog he posted on MySpace to raise money to pay for his friend’s treatment. Renee was 19 and was suffering from depression and addiction. Her arms were scarred and bleeding from self-inflicted razor cuts. At the time he wrote the blog, Tworkowski and his friends were caring for Renee until she entered treatment.

“We become her hospital and the possibility of healing fills our living room with life,” he wrote. “It is unspoken and there are only a few of us, but we will be her church, the body of Christ coming alive to meet her needs, to write love on her arms.”

The TWLOHA movement gained the support of bands like Switchfoot, Anberlin and Paramore. The T-shirts that were first sold to help pay for Renee’s treatment now can be seen on campuses around the country. Over the past four years, TWLOHA has responded to 150,000 messages from people in 40 countries and has donated $500,000 to treatment and recovery organizations.

“We began to hear from people in need of help, and others asking what they could do to help their friends,” he said. “We heard from people who had lost loved ones to suicide. … It seemed we had stumbled upon a bigger story, and a conversation that needed to be had.”

Tworkowski speaks frequently to the media and to audiences across the United States and abroad. His talk at St. Thomas will be one of a dozen visits he is making to university campuses nationwide in November.

Jamie Tworkowski, wearing a TWLOHA T-shirt.

Jamie Tworkowski, wearing a TWLOHA T-shirt.

In his talks, Tworkowski shares statistics from the National Institute of Mental Health: untreated depression is the number-one cause of suicide and suicide is the third-leading cause of death among teenagers. He also speaks about hope, love and news that depression is treatable.

Joining Tworkowski at St. Thomas Nov. 22 will be musician Steven McMorran of Satellite. Information and TWLOHA merchandise will be available.

Also on hand will be representatives from St. Thomas’ Counseling and Psychological Services office, and the St. Thomas chapter of Active Minds, a national student organization that works to create awareness about, and remove the stigma surrounding, mental health issues.