On Thursday November 3rd, students, faculty, and residents of the surrounding community lined up to listen to Jamie Tworkowski, founder of the non-profit organization To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA), speak about his New York Times bestselling book: If You Feel Too Much. One Book One Campus selects one book to feature each year, and programs are designed to promote campus-wide engagement with the selection, which culminates in a public lecture by the author.
This year’s selection is representative of a campus wide push to raise awareness about mental health issues. TWLOHA is dedicated to helping those who are struggling with mental illness, and it “exists to encourage, inform, inspire, and also invest directly into treatment and recovery” (TWLHOA website). His book is a collection of short stories about his own struggles, with the intention of presenting a message of hope. With suicide being the second leading cause of death among college students, Tworkowski’s book helps to raise awareness about the importance of seeking help, and it also tackles the negative stigma associated with mental illness.
During the event, Tworkowski read excerpts from the book and engaged in a Q&A session with the audience. The theme of the night was acceptance. Tworkowski reiterated the fact that it is okay to get wrapped up in our own emotions; it is okay to feel too much. One story that Tworkowski read stood out among the rest. It is titled “There is Still Some Time,” and it is also the most-read story in TWLOHA history. It is about the pain of struggling, or watching someone else struggle, with suicide. It begins, “If you feel too much, there’s still a place for you here. If you feel too much, don’t go. If this world is too painful, stop and rest. It’s okay to stop and rest” (If You Feel Too Much, 160). This passage served to remind the audience that everyone’s story is important, and if you are struggling, you are not alone.
“It’s honest about things people aren’t typically honest about,” said Ashley Wijangco, member and social media chair of the Registered Student Organization, TWLOHA-UIUC. “I think it helps people realize they can share what they are feeling, and that they should share what they’re feeling.” The UIUC chapter is part of a larger network of student organizations whose aim is to serve TWLOHA’s mission by participating in national campaigns, educating the community about mental health issues, volunteering at local fundraising events, and raising money for treatment.
“Even though you may not have had mental health issues, or known someone who has, [Jamie’s book] helps you realize that it is not just about depression—it’s emotions and feelings in general that affect everyone,” said Ashley’s twin sister, Amanda, who is also a member of TWLOHA-UIUC, and serves as the club’s secretary.
Non-profit organizations like TWLOHA would not be possible without the thousands of people who volunteer and dedicate their time to spreading awareness. “Uchapter’s are important because if you didn’t have them, then you don’t have that community outreach part,” said Amanda. TWLOHA has donated more than $1.5 million to treatment and recovery, funding a variety of counseling services for those in need. “[Volunteers] are kind of the heart of [a non-profit organization]. Because they are the ones going out and being active with whatever the organization is trying to achieve,” added Ashley.
A book signing and reception followed the lecture, with some people waiting in line for almost two hours for a chance to interact and get a photo with Jamie. Overall, the One Book One Campus event was a great way to bring people together and educate the larger campus community about mental health issues. To Write Love on Her Arms would not be possible without volunteers, who play a vital role in the success of the organization.
There are many mental health resources available on campus. The Counseling Center is located at 610 E. John St. and is open from 8am-5pm Monday through Friday. To make an appointment, call 217-333-3704. Be sure to check out the OVP website for more information about volunteer opportunities. The next weekend service trip will be December 2-4 in Chicago.
*All photos courtesy of Ashley Wijangco