The theme of this year’s Suicide Prevention Week, “Look Up,” was introduced at the first event: a film screening of “To Write Love on Her Arms.” The film played at 6 p.m. on Thursday evening in Laurel Hall to a scattered audience. Presented by Women’s Center associate director Kathy Fischer and Anne Thompson Heller from Counseling and Mental Health Services, “To Write Love on Her Arms” corresponded to the theme “Look Up” by proving that hope exists.
The film tells the true story of Renee Yohe, a 19-year-old girl who turned to drugs after struggling with bipolar disorder and sexual assault. She eventually met a recovering addict who, along with her friends from her school days, helped her detox over a five-day period in order to enter a rehab facility. Starring Kat Dennings and Chad Michael Murray, the movie shows the good and the bad of the recovery process.
The movie begins when Yohe is a little girl and the things she draws seem to come to life. The things she imagines are as real in her mind as anything outside of it, and her friendly teddy bear companion can turn to give her an encouraging smile as she falls asleep. After suffering the death of a friend’s mother, things get darker and the active imagination that once made her life a happy place turns against her. As she grows up and her life gets more complicated, Yohe’s mental health begins to suffer and she pulls away from her friends until she becomes a textbook druggie. By showing both sides of the bipolar coin, the movie begins to address important themes of mental health right away.
Over the course of the movie, Yohe luckily manages to get on the road to sobriety with the help of a strong community of supporters. When one of her friends asks if he can tell her story, Yohe agrees, which leads to the creation of To Write Love on Her Arms, a nonprofit dedicated to helping those who struggle with the same challenges Yohe faced.
For those of us who don’t struggle with these demons ourselves but want to support those who do, one of the most relatable lines of the movie is delivered by Murray, playing Jamie Tworkowski, the founder of the organization.
“I want to be the guy that can say the right thing,” he says.
Yohe responds in the film by saying sometimes it’s not about what you say, but rather what you do. Tworkowski apparently heeded Yohe’s word as she entered rehab, because he started a foundation that has reached out to hundreds of thousands of individuals struggling with mental illness, depression, drug abuse, self harm and suicide. You can still find the original story that Tworkowski wrote on twloha.com.
As the University of Connecticut moves into Suicide Prevention Week, there are a number of events scheduled and resources available to help students confronting these battles, all aligning with this year’s theme.
When speaking of “looking up,” Yohe’s story is very relevant.
“It provides messages of hope,” Heller said. “Talking about it, sharing a story helps to break the silence.”
As Tworkowski said in the original story, before he even began writing, he asked Yohe what she would say if she had an audience.
“Tell them to look up,” she said. “Tell them to remember the stars.”
Alex Houdeshell is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at email@example.com.