(Maggie LaFleur)

By Darren Zancan

For Jenny Besten, writing the word “love” on her arm was a way to support those who suffer from depression, self-mutilation or have had suicidal thoughts. Then Besten realized she wasn’t just doing it for others, she was also doing it for herself.

“Originally I did it just to show my support,” sophomore Besten said. “But after a while, it became more personal.”

Thousands of people participated in writing love on their arms Wednesday, Sept. 8, as a part of National Suicide Prevention Week.

The idea of writing love on your arm was started by a non-profit movement called “To Write Love on Her Arms.” The mission is simple: To present hope and find help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide.

According to TWLOHA’s mission, the story and the lives it represents are things of contrast – pain and hope, addiction and sobriety, regret and the possibility of freedom. The project’s title, “To Write Love on Her Arms,” was also a goal, believing that a better life was possible.

Besten said she heard of the movement from a friend in high school and started doing it three years ago, hoping it would help her ongoing battle with depression and cutting.

“I heard a friend talking about it (cutting) before and how the rush of endorphins would make her feel better,” Besten said. “I was going through a rough time then, and I felt like I couldn’t talk to anybody. When I remembered what my friend said, it just clicked into place and (I) thought doing that stuff might help me too.”
Several Eastern students could be seen last week with the word scribbled all over their arms. Some just wrote it once, while others littered their arms, hoping to spread awareness in suicide prevention.

“A lot of people ask what it’s about,” sophomore Kitty Keaton said. “So it makes those who are unaware, aware. Maybe if someone is going through something, they see people care. They know I care and there are others out there that care.”

In teens, suicide is the third leading cause of death, according to the TWLOHA’s website. More than 30,000 people a year commit suicide.

“The thought of suicide is scary; it’s extraordinarily scary,” Besten said. “For me it was like, ‘Oh my God, what almost happened?'”

So to help get the word out, students took the step to show their support.

“It makes them feel less alone and shows them we take suicide serious,” sophomore Emily Mack said. “When people hear other people talk about suicide, some think it’s just talk and don’t take them serious and just blow them off.”

Mack has written “love” on her arm for four years. She, too, has friends who deal with depression and cutting.

“It’s scary because I’m not a counselor, so there is only so much I can do,” Mack said. “They need to go to someone who can help, but it’s hard because we want to help fix their problems too.”

More than 121 million people worldwide suffer from depression, reported the TWLOHA website.

“Doing this shows we support them,” Keaton said. “Every little bit can help. A lot of people deal with short-term and long-term depression. I know a lot of teenagers go through it and have the thought of suicide.”

A national Facebook event formed, and by the end of the week, more than 200,000 people joined the movement to “trust that we can replace guns, ropes, blades and bottles, with hope.”

“Hopefully the more people participate in this, the more we can help others before it is too late,” Mack said.