The audience sat in silence for several minutes after the “To Write Love on Her Arms” credits rolled in the Women’s Center on Tuesday, Sept. 24. Except for a few whispers, the room was silent enough to hear a pin drop.
“There are many people facing mental health problems and the road to recovery isn’t a clear path,” Kyra Arena, a first-semester student said after the film ended.
The film is based on the true story of a young woman, Renee Yohe (portrayed by Kat Dennings), who struggles with drug addiction, bipolar disorder, self-harm and the aftermath of sexual assault. We see heart-wrenching scenes of Renee dealing with these difficult issues and the effect it has on her relationships.
After summoning the courage to seek help after more than two years, Renee reconciles with her high school friends and meets a recovered addict, McKenna (Rupert Friend). With their support, they help her stay sober for five days so she can get into a detox rehabilitation center. Her friends, though at times misguided due to lack of knowledge, were there for her every step of the way to recovery, whether it was taking her to music festivals or painting over graffitied walls with white paint. Throughout this time, Renee meets McKenna’s roommate, Jamie (Chad Michael Murray), who ends up telling her story on MySpace, creating a nationwide movement that this movie is coined after.
Renee is welcomed home by her family and friends after returning from six months of rehab. Everyone, including Renee, believes that after rehab, you’re completely “normal” again. But soon after she returns, Renee comes to the realization that rehab doesn’t fix your problems. She realizes that she’s still in recovery and yes, she’s still “messed up,” but that’s okay. When she visits McKenna after months away, she finds that he relapsed after being fired from his job. At first, she’s angry at him, but soon accepts that she needs to be there for him like he was for her.
The film ends with Renee and her friends spray painting flowers over a graffitied wall, which proves that you can make something beautiful out of any mess.
“The film portrays what it can look like to be honest and brave in the midst of pain, and to turn to support and community to find the help that you need,” Aaron Rosales, a UConn Pre-Doctoral intern, said. Indeed, it coincides with the Suicide Prevention Week’s phrase, “Listen Louder.”
“Secrets keep us sick,” Anne Thompson Heller, a Student Health and Wellness social worker says. “Community and conversations can help bring light to these secrets and promote healing.”
It is important to share our stories and begin conversations about this topic, though they are difficult to talk about. The community of UConn is responsible for supporting and accepting one another throughout their struggles.
To Write Love on Her Arms is a non-profit organization founded by Jamie Tworkowski in 2006. Their mission is to provide hope for those struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide by carrying out annual campaigns to inform the general public, connecting people with treatment centers and providing resources for those in need. If you would like to donate to the cause, visit Twloha.com.
Shannon Deneen is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at email@example.com.