Eighteen million people in the United States are suffering from depression, two of three people suffering never seek treatment, and untreated depression is the number one cause of suicide, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
The student-run chapter of To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA) at TCU seeks to raise awareness about depression, while providing a community for those who have struggled or are currently struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury or suicide.
On Tuesday, the organization held its first Open Mic Night where students shared struggles through music and poetry.
“At the end of the night we hope that those who attend are moved to have conversations, to seek help, or to find hope knowing they are not alone in the issues they face,” said Madelyn Nelson, president of the university's TWLOHA UChapter.
Nelson greeted those in attendance by sharing her own personal story about the "negative energy’ she lived in after losing her father. She showed the emotions she faced through poetry and the music that spoke to her during that time.
Nelson was joined by Tessa Salomone, a sophomore ballet major, who read essays that she had written after the loss of her father to express emotions she felt at the time.
Salomone wrote in an email, “As someone who has struggled with the pain of major depressive disorder, I am an advocate for suicide prevention and mental health awareness on campus.
“Those struggling with depression need to know that they don’t have to fight this battle alone. Depression is real, but suicide is not the last option. Love is the movement. It is our job, as those who have a voice, to speak up for those who are struggling to find their own."
Junior theater major Dylan Lovett also shared his story and music. With his acoustic guitar in hand, he sang several folk/bluegrass style songs he has written in the past.
“I was ecstatic about sharing my story for such a good cause. I hoped to just shed some light on life's bitter truths and realities about love, hatred and compassion through some honest folk music. Someone out there can relate to my story or songs,” Lovett said.
The students that attended the event in the Sid W. Richardson Building were asked to reflect on what they wanted in life. Students answered with statements like “Before I die, I want to…” and “Before I die, I hope to…” that were written up on the white board in the lecture hall.
Nelson said the goal of TWLOHA at the university is to let people know they are not alone if they struggle from time to time, and to have conversations about these struggles.
“We all deal with the human condition and human emotion, which is that we have ups and downs in our lives. We want people to know it is OK to not be OK in this world. We hope to get the message across this campus that mental health issues should not stay silent and it's time to have conversations,” Nelson said.
After an evening of storytelling through poetry, music, videos and personal accounts, Nelson said she wanted people to realize that their stories matter.
“We as an organization are all about stories, no matter how heavy or light they may be," she said. "We want people to know they are important and so are their stories."
Nelson also told attendees about the resources that are available through the university's Counseling Center.
The university chapter of To Write Love on Her Arms was established during the 2011-2012 school year by senior finance major Lauren Blassberg and senior speech pathology major Kaitlyn Turney.
Blassberg wrote in an email, "College is a time when young adults are experiencing major life changes. It is important to have groups available to build the community and let everyone know that you are not alone in whatever you are feeling. Especially because TCU has experienced student suicides within the past couple years, I think TWOLHA is important to remind people that mental health is important and we should watch out for each other."
The organization's next meeting is Feb. 20 at 9 p.m. in the Brown-Lupton University Union and is open to everyone. For more information, contact Madelyn Nelson at firstname.lastname@example.org.