Senior starts local campaign to end mental health stigma

Senior Abigail Van Patten has recently become a Storyteller for CFHS, meaning she can lead The Storytellers Campaign to bring awareness about the mental health stigma. The Storytellers Campaign is part of the larger organization of To Write Love On Her Arms, which strives to provide hope and healing for people strugling with depression, anxiety, addictions and suicide.

To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA) is an American non-profit organization that aims to provide hope for people struggling with anxiety, depression, addiction, self-harm, eating disorders and suicidal thoughts.  Based in Melbourne, Fla., it was founded by Jamie Tworkowski in March 2006.

Tworkowski  founded the organization from the seeds of a story he wrote about Renee Yohe, chronicling her struggles with addiction, depression, self-injury and attempted suicide.

In 2012, Yohe’s story was made into a movie called “Day One” starring Kat Dennings.

Part of the larger organization of TWLOHA is The Storytellers, which is a campaign for high schoolers to initiate a conversation about mental health issues.

Senior Abigail Van Patten has recently gained permission to be a storyteller for the organization.

“I tried to start it last year, but was not able to,” Van Patten said. ALPHA teacher Tim Kangas will be the group’s sponsor. The Storytellers campaign runs for two months in each high school and can include a variety of activities, some of which are suggested by TWLOHA.

Van Patten said she stumbled upon TWLOHA on the Internet in eighth grade. She found out about the Storytellers program last year, which was the first year it was done.

This will not be a school group, but rather a campaign that will reach the entire school community and the larger community of Cedar Falls.  The purpose of the campaign is to hold two events: one in October and one in November.

As of now, Van Patten is planning a Fear vs. Dreams campaign and a benefit concert/silent auction. Van Patten wants to start this project because she wants to break mental and social barriers and create a community within the school. She also wants to break the mental health stigma that everyone sees.

The months of October and November are a good time to have this campaign because winter is a prime time for depression.

Van Patten has high hopes for this project, namely a sense of hope and healing and community within the school. Van Patten strongly believes in the importance of this project. “I’m super passionate about this,” she said.  “The topics are very near to me. I feel like I need to do this.”

To find out more about To Write Love On Her Arms, visit twloha.com and like their page on Facebook. “Just keep your eyes and ears open, CF,” Van Patten said.

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