To Write Love on Her Arms is a Florida-based non-profit organization that raises awareness for mental health issues such as depression, addiction, self-harm and suicide, by encouraging, informing and inspiring people while also directly investing into treatment and recovery.
As part of their work, TWLOHA spends time on site at various music festivals such as Bonnaroo, Riot Fest, Rock on the Range and Warped Tour, where their team members interact with festival-goers to promote hope and help for those who may be suffering. One such team member is Chad Moses, a ten year vet with TWLOHA, who joins us to list the TOP 10 things he’s learned about mental health while working at festivals.
10. We Still Exist
– On the surface, this looks a bit self-aggrandizing, but this point is chock full of gratitude. It’s amazing how many people cross by our tent and say “WOW, I can’t believe y’all are still around! This project saved my life, I hope it keeps going.” That response used to hit me pretty bittersweet, as if to a certain extent people thought of us as a trend, but now I love those comments. It proves that the way most folks learned about TWLOHA was through people in their own communities. It really shows how sharing a personal passion just might impact someone else’s life.
09. People Are Willing to Talk About Mental Health…
– …they are usually just waiting for someone to start the conversation. The best way to encourage conversation surrounding mental health is by bringing people into that conversation through asking questions. “What’s your biggest fear? What’s your greatest dream?” If mental health is difficult to talk about, then we can break the ice by being invitational with people’s stories.
TWLOHA’s video for World Suicide Prevention Day last September.
08. Music Is a Brilliant Metaphor for Life
– Think for a moment about your favourite song, or album, or musician. It is probably your favourite because it reminds you of something true in your life. It likely makes you feel seen, or heard, or valid. Music reminds us that there are things in life worth singing about, worth dancing to, worth screaming for, and worth sharing with other people. You could argue that songs don’t exist until they are shared, until there is an audience to receive them. In a way, we are all songs in progress.
07. Don’t Confuse Music (Or Musicians) with Counsellors
– While music can certainly help to regulate moods or expand our emotional vocabulary, it is incapable of granting you the time or consistent presence it takes (and the time/presence you deserve) to get to know you. It can be easy to feel a sense of connection with musicians, and their art can definitely have a role in your healing, but you are worthy of more. There are people who have dedicated their lives (counsellors, therapists, life coaches, mentors, friends, and family) to making sure you get the care you deserve.
06. At Any Show, There Will Be Someone Who Gets You
– Whatever context you carry with you, you will be in good company. Maybe this show is a treat: you will be able to find someone else to celebrate with you. Maybe this show is a retreat: your courage to step out your front door is significant and impactful, and someone else in that room will understand that feeling – you are not alone and you belong here.
05. If You Are Sober, There Is Still a Place for You
– Just because you are making choices that some think are anomalous to “rock and roll”, doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for you. Often times, music festivals incorporate sober programming or recovery meetings into their schedule. I can promise that you will not be the only one on site partying sober.
Check out a similar video for 2017’s World Suicide Prevention Day.
04. If You Are NOT Sober, Today Is a Great Day One
– One of my favourite interactions that ever happened was at one of the largest rock festivals in North America. It was there I met a young woman (I’ll call her “Megan”) who came to the booth as I was talking to a crowd of a dozen or so people. I asked if anyone had any questions and Megan said, “I was clean for three weeks, but I’ve f*cked up.” I told her that I’d be there all day and any time she was ready to start again, I’d happily cheer her on. She came back about ten hours later to share that she was on the way to the bathroom to flush the rest of the drugs she had on her. The following year at the same festival, Megan came back to the booth smiling and saying that she’s been clean for fifty-two weeks.
03. Plan Ahead to Practice Self-Care
– Music festivals make their mark by being visually and acoustically spectacular. They go big, bright, and loud. So here are a couple of tips for how to practice good self-care (especially if you live with an anxiety disorder or are prone to over-stimulation) at fests: Stay hydrated. Bring earplugs and a spare charger for your phone. The sound will be better by the sound board at front of the house rather than in the first row where there are a ton of people—you don’t need to ride the rail to enjoy the show. A little peace of mind can make a hectic day waaaay more enjoyable.
02. Remember: You Can Rest
01. We Show up to Events to See YOU
– Your presence at a show impacts the room/field/night/week. The event can’t happen without you. Your presence – your life – is significant. Just by showing up, you make the place more beautiful, more complete. Keep showing up. I don’t want to imagine this world, or a show, without you in it.