To Write Love On Her Arms
March 23, 2007 11:09 AM   Subscribe

To Write Love On Her Arms is a story and the response to a story. I first saw the shirt on Switchfoot's Jon Foreman and thought "Hey that's a cool shirt." Months later I saw an ad and went to look them up. That's when I found the story. As their MySpace page points out, they are not a 24-hour helpline, nor are they trained professionals, but they do "hope to serve as a bridge to help." Its a small organization right now, using a unique method of achieving recognition and exposure, but it is an important "movement of love, a commitment to begin answering these needs and offering hope to the many who struggle with depression, addiction, suicide, self injury." (from the FAQ)
posted by allkindsoftime (14 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Oh, and before someone else points it out, yeah, they are "Christian." But here's what they have to say about that:

We feel that the story (and the rest of this project) speaks for itself. Identifying something (such as a band, store, venue or project) as "Christian" often alienates those outside of the church/christian culture and we don't want to do that. TWLOHA aims to be inclusive and inviting. This is a project for all people. This is a project for broken people, and it is led by broken people.

I'd appreciate it if we could focus on that and the good work these people are looking to do to help people in real need, instead of berating the movement for its faith-base.
posted by allkindsoftime at 11:10 AM on March 23, 2007

I learned about this group from that couple on MTV's show "Engaged and Underage"; the Christian couple with the gay-ish groom and Oedipal mother-in-law who moved into the cabin in the parent's backyard. The aftershow showed that the two are now on tour in an RV with 3 other people in the organzation, selling merch at concerts around the country (which sounds like a sexy way to begin marriage, but I digress).

The idea of the organization sounds great, but..... what do they do? It seems sort of odd that they're starting out with the "Let's sell t-shirts and get famous" part before they do any real work for more than one person.

Blurb from the website on where the money goes:
. Where does the money from T-shirt sales and donations go?
A. Initial profits went to cover Renee's rehab expenses. We continue to help support her as she gets her feet on the ground. Beyond that, money essentially goes now to two places:

1. Operating costs: production, management of online store, promotional expenses such as printing and shipping of flyer cards, legal fees, design fees (t-shirts, web, flyers), booth for Cornerstone
(and future events). Also, we often send shirts to hurting kids, so when we do that, we cover the production cost plus shipping. Jamie, Trisha and Lauren are now working on this full-time draw a salary, determined by a board of directors. The need is great, and we hope to add more staff as soon as possible.

2. Meeting financial needs. Our goal for 2007 is to contribute $100k to the treatment, recovery and support of young people facing depression, addiction and self-injury.

posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:24 AM on March 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

I think we can do both.
posted by found missing at 11:25 AM on March 23, 2007

2. Meeting financial needs. Our goal for 2007 is to contribute $100k to the treatment, recovery and support of young people facing depression, addiction and self-injury.

I think that begins to answer the question of what they do - or rather what they hope to do in the future. That's huge - there's not a lot of other orgs out there that have raising that kind of money for depression, addiction, self-injury, suicide prevention, etc..

Like I said in the post, its small, but I do think its off to a good start - its meeting these kids where they are and starting to raise money to help them.
posted by allkindsoftime at 11:33 AM on March 23, 2007

I don't think anyone around here would snark at religion-based groups that do good work for existing. If they were receiving government money that would be a problem, but if their God-belief motivates them to do good work, that's great.
posted by gurple at 11:36 AM on March 23, 2007

Maybe so- maybe they're on the crest of the wave of how organizations like this will work in the future- build your brand via MTV and Myspace, get in kid's heads, and then they know where to come when they have troubles. It still seems a little backwards to me, and I can't say I'd donate money to an organzation where the future goal is that vague (where is that 100k going to go, exactly?). But I suppose everyone has to start somewhere.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:37 AM on March 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

The only problem I have with religious organizations helping people in need is sort of a wan one in comparison to the good work that some of them do.

That problem is that when someone is in need, they are considerably easier to sway to your side. Not just to religions, either- people in this kind of pain will latch on to anything, video games or Myspace or microwave burritos. Religion seems to hang on though, and it can form dizzying highs and lows of its own terrifying sort. We are creatures of emulation, and when someone preaches to us, we will preach to others. It is terrifying and frustrating to watch kids lecture each other on religion when they barely have an inkling of it themselves.

I want people to be more religious. I want people to believe in a context beyond their own mind, and I think that a conscious belief in a religion- as opposed to a casual one where you have latched onto it accidentally, either through desperation or merely being dragged to church by your parents- is essential to obtaining that context.

If a kid comes to them who refuses to say the words God, Christ, or Jesus, and gets skittish and bolts for the door when they stand around him and pray- are they going to help that kid as much? My experience with some of these organizations is that they see salvation through Jesus only, and forget the rest. The one thing these kids do not need to hear any more is, "Not you."

Good luck to them. Since they've apparently helped at least one person, I call them a success. Stay in the game.
posted by thethirdman at 12:34 PM on March 23, 2007

Good points, thethirdman.

I think its clear from their FAQ that they want to be inclusive and inviting to all people, especially those kids who refuse to say God, Christ, or Jesus. I would hope an org like this wouldn't look to freak the kid out by standing around him and praying so much as they would just being there, or buying them coffee or cigarettes, etc. (some great examples in the story).

Hopefully their end-game is more to actually love and help these kids than it is to push a religious agenda. Hopefully.
posted by allkindsoftime at 1:03 PM on March 23, 2007

I'd appreciate it if we could focus on that and the good work these people are looking to do to help people in real need, instead of berating the movement for its faith-base.

I'm sorry, but you don't get off that easy. There is one heck of an ethical red flag raised when you are dealing with extremely at-risk individuals and you have an underlying agenda, no matter how subtle or benign it seems and no matter how much you deny it. And consciously or subconsciously, we all project our beliefs on to others. Mental health professionals don't just go to school so they can be pedantic human diagnostic machines. Any mental health professional worth their salt has worked hard and continues to work hard to suppress their own instinctual projection of belief. This red flag is magnified hugely when you are using vague viral marketing to reach your at-risk audience. Non-trained, non-professionals stumbling their way through this minefield without any visible plan of action is really, really worrisome to me.

This is not anti-Christian backlash. It's merely an extension of the old proverb about the pavement of the road to Hell.
posted by Skwirl at 2:04 PM on March 23, 2007

For me, it touches so much on people I knew growing up- well meaning people whose naivete seemed to push them out of touch with reality. And I tried my best to push back against that, which I assure you didn't go over very well.

I don't get what this organization is about, or rather I don't get why they need rock stars and t-shirts to do what they seem to want to do. And there's something offensive to me about the need to make the whole thing "cool"; it's a romantic story and every drug addict is a princess waiting to break free, blah blah blah. That's such a big thing now in Christian culture- casting God, Jesus, and the rest of us in some Cinderella story. I think it's creepy. And what's with bringing in all the famous people, anyway? Just because they're Christian rock stars doesn't make them qualified to help people in real ways. I hate the secular cult of celebrity where we encourage people, at their most desperate, to write a letter to Oprah. Because Oprah will save us! How is this different? Why can't help for these people originate organically, in their homes, their schools, and their churches? But I suppose that's not as cool.

And although I'm sure they mean to be inviting to all people, I don't think it's going to translate as well as they think. Like this language from "The Story":

We often ask God to show up. We pray prayers of rescue. Perhaps God would ask us to be that rescue, to be His body, to move for things that matter. He is not invisible when we come alive. I might be simple but more and more, I believe God works in love, speaks in love, is revealed in our love.

Nobody talks like that outside of the church! It's not going to attract people from the outside, it's only going to attract people from within; people who already know the language and who probably already have enough of that baggage on their back. They need real professional help, not a t-shirt from a 21 year old MTV personality. I hope this organization can do good things, I hope they'll be able to reach out to the general teen community the way they want to, but for me, the front is so propped up by contemporary Christian jargon, I cannot help but be skeptical.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:47 PM on March 23, 2007 [4 favorites]

It's great for people to help each other recover and it's great to simply sit and be with someone in early recovery and help them through the amazingly sucky first days when you think you will never feel OK again. This is a large part of the value of the 12-step programs-- especially since everyone there has been through the experience themselves and that can sometimes offer a kind of hope that nothing else can.

That said, there are extreme problems with amateurs assuming that simply because they themselves recovered or helped someone recover, they know what they are doing.

Certain kinds of withdrawal-- alcohol, benzodiazepines, barbiturates (note that opioids aren't included here)-- are potentially fatal. Certain situations enhance risk of death (heat plus stimulants, for example). Many addictions are complicated by mental illness-- and you can do harm by doing the wrong thing (for example, pushing a trauma survivor to "open up" and talk about it before they are ready). Certain treatment programs (harshly confrontational ones including many teen residential centers) can do harm.

So, would I as someone who knows a great deal about addiction and its treatment give money to these people?

Absolutely not. They need no money to sit and be with people to help them get into treatment. I don't want to fund "treatment" generically because a lot of it is actually harmful and counter-productive.

If you want to give money to an addiction-related organization, give it to a particular program that you know does kind, evidence-based treatment.
posted by Maias at 3:16 PM on March 23, 2007

They need real professional help, not a t-shirt from a 21 year old MTV personality.

Uh...that's what we discussed them being *about* already. They're not raising the money with the t-shirts to promote an MTV personality, they're raising it to fund treatment, recovery and support of young people facing depression, addiction and self-injury. (First quoted by yourself, TPS).

And they're not the ones trying to do that work (as pointed out in my original post), they're trying to support the real professionals. Hell, see the links page on their site, they list a ton of great orgs that they are looking to help bolster.

I debated for a long time putting my first comment up there to try and steer the conversation away from the OMG THEY LOVE JESUS THEY MUST BE EVIL road I figured MeFi would take it down, but in the end I knew it was going to happen, either way.

posted by allkindsoftime at 10:08 PM on March 23, 2007

I'm not anti-Christian; I happen to be a Christian myself. But I don't think that means I automatically have to RAH RAH RAH for any thing any Christian is doing, even if they mean well. Questions are not a bad thing.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:49 PM on March 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

questions aren't a bad thing, but an annoying one if you don't RTFA. i think it's pretty bold, considering the climate these people choose to work in they mention a sincere faith at all. keeping the kid in coffee and smokes and rock skows until she was able to go into a serious rehab for help is not your average "christian" charity concept, but in this case it worked. that the experiance inspired these folks to make some shirts and put them on rock bands where they'll be seen by the people that this fund (and awareness) raising concept is focused on is, IMHO, a little stroke of genius.
The money is intended to promote awareness and pay for professional rehabilitaion for those who suffer from depression, and it's side effects, like cutting and addiction. the people in the age group most effected by these issues are by and large gonna be at smaller, all ages rock shows, so slapping a hoodie on a guitarist and setting up a stand by the merch table is how they've chosen to try and reach out to these kids.
even if you don't approve of thier (pretty understated) faith, i don't see how you can disapprove of the message or the method.
purse-nelly, just knowing about an org like this would have made a huge difference to my life at that age.
posted by mikoroshi at 10:05 AM on March 24, 2007

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