TCU’s To Write Love on Her Arms chapter is approaching its fourth year on campus. It has drastically grown this year under the leadership of two underclassmen, co-president Hank Kilgore said.
This was a largely transitional year for the chapter after four of the five executive team members from last year graduated.
Two sophomore co-presidents, Kilgore and Alec Mothershead, joined forces to approach what they knew would be a year of many changes.
“We kind of figured last year why have a president do most of the work and have a vice president help when we could just split the work halfway?” Kilgore said. “We decided on co-presidents. We kinda worked with the constitution and did our own thing.”
“TWLOHA is a nonprofit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide,” according to the group’s Facebook page.
“What we want to do is spread the idea across campus that everybody has problems,” Kilgore said. “Everybody has things to deal with. Mental illness, and mainly things like depression and anxiety, is a very common thing. People are scared to talk about it, but people need to talk about it.”
During its first year on campus, attendance at the UChapter’s meetings is expected to be two or three members at best, Kilgore said.
Meeting attendance grew to approximately 10 members last year and finished off this year with 20 to 30 members at the biweekly meetings, Kilgore said.
“It’s come a very long way,” Kilgore said. “This year was a very good year in terms of getting us out there a little bit more. Our goal was pretty much what we did this year. Set everything up this year, get things right and help clean it up into something more organized than what it was.”
The second goal of the co-presidents was changing the image of TWLOHA.
TWLOHA has an inaccurate image of being the sad, depressed club that sits around and talks about being sad all the time, Mothershead said.
“It’s not about talking about being sad,” Mothershead said. “It’s about recognizing that being sad is a thing, but it doesn’t have to control your life.”
One of the main objectives of the UChapters is to raise money for the national organization.
The biggest fundraising event for TCU’s UChapter is Hope and Mic Night. This annual event of singers, songwriters and poets performing and sharing their stories served as a clear indicator of the UChapter’s growth.
“Last year we had a total of three paying people come to Hope and Mic Night,” Mothershead said. “This year, we had to get more chairs, because we had over 70 people in attendance. Not all of those were paying, because we don’t charge the performers or members to come in.”
The co-presidents were successful in accomplishing their two foundational goals for this year, and new plans for improvements next year are in the works.
Some of those plans include ways to spread their name on campus and have more on-campus activity.
“Now that we have a lot more members, next year the goal is to spread us and get more involved with other organizations that are of the same type,” Kilgore said.
One of the few constants throughout the many changes is the close sense of community between the members, Kilgore said. All of the members know each other by name and are all “super close,” Kilgore said.
The organization is not a support group or substitution for counseling, but it is a welcoming environment for members to get a chance to talk and realize they are not alone, Kilgore said.
“We try erasing that stigma of ‘mental health is bad; if I have a mental health issue I should keep it to myself,’” Mothershead said. “All that does is eat you alive. I can tell you right now that I do not know of a single person who has ever considered joining TWLOHA that would not walk someone to the counseling center just to get them there for the first time if they were too afraid to go alone.”
Kilgore plans on stepping down from his position for next year but will continue to be involved. Danielle Mondragon, the executive team member currently in charge of public relations, will fill Kilgore’s position.
Mothershead has been involved with the organization through half of its time on campus. He has served on the executive team since last spring and will return as a co-president next year.
“One of the greatest things for me is seeing the difference on the backend,” Mothershead said. “How much we’ve grown as an organization to be able to be so much better organized and do so much better on that end has been a beautiful change to see.”
“What we’re trying to do, honestly overall, is just let people know that it’s okay to talk about things like suicide, depression, anxiety and eating disorders,” Kilgore said. “That’s fine. Everybody deals with things like that. We’re here to help and to help make sure people know that’s normal and there’s nothing weird about it.”