shed aside on college campuses, as students often hear that these years as undergraduates are supposed to be the happiest times of their lives. The Boston College chapter of To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA-BC), started this spring semester, aims to break the stigma associated with mental illness and create a community that fosters dialogue regarding the topic.
TWLOHA-BC is one of the university chapters of this national non-profit organization.
“TWLOHA is a national organization that focuses on helping people find treatment, recovery and spreading this message of hope for those struggling with any form of mental health issue or even anyone who is struggling in day to day life and doesn’t want to call it a mental illness,” said Cassidy Gallegos, TWLOHA-BC president and LSOE ’16.
“Everyone can relate to having a friend or family member, someone close to them that’s suffering, if not themselves personally,” Jackie Garrahan, TWLOHA-BC vice president and A&S ’16 said.
During her freshman year, Gallegos said she saw a real need for an organization like TWLOHA at BC, inspiring her to bring a university chapter to campus.
“I personally experienced and saw other friends really struggling with depression and anxiety-not feeling like they could be honest about it and putting on this fake mask of everything is perfect,” she said.
In deciding to found TWLOHA-BC, Gallegos hoped to create a more discussion of the topic of mental illness on campus.
“I decided that it was something really beneficial to the community because these topics are not talked about openly,” she said. “People don’t know how to talk about mental health or how to be supportive of themselves and their friends who are struggling. We exist to start that conversation that is so heavily stigmatized.”
Once TWLOHA-BC was sanctioned as an official club on campus, the founders received great support from BC students who were excited and ready to promote this organization’s message on campus.
“The response from students has been awesome,” Gallegos said. “We have gotten a lot of students who have heard of the organization and want to be involved…[and] people who haven’t heard of it but like what we are about and the message of what To Write Love on Her Arms wants to do.”
TWLOHA-BC meets every Sunday at 5 p.m. in Stokes 103N to discuss varying topics regarding mental health in a safe environment.
“Every week focuses on a different ‘heavy topic,'” Gallegos said. “We have subjects like self-injury, suicide, addiction, and eating disorders.”
The club members realize the how difficult it can be to openly discuss these topics and therefore do not go into this discussion unguided, Gallegos explained.
“We have some really heavy topics that are hard to talk about, so we have professionals or professors in those specific fields that will be leading the discussion,” she said.
The club encourages its members to take this knowledge that they gain from these meetings and spread it to the larger community.
“The whole point of those meetings is to educate the members about what is this specific mental illness and how can we support someone who is struggling with it, in hopes of them then being able to help us further this message on the whole BC campus,” Gallegos said.
To raise awareness and funds regarding the organization, TWLOHA-BC will be hosting a “Hope ‘N Mic Night” on March 13 which is open to all students.
“We are going to be hosting a whole bunch of performers in a community event that is centered around hope, support, and moving towards recovery,” Garrahan said.
“We want to continue the conversation on mental illness but we want to have it in another way,” Gallegos said. “Therefore allowing people to creatively express themselves through written songs, playing an instrument, spoken word poetry, really anything that will help share their story to the group that also correlates with the message of hope or healing.”
TWLOHA-BC hopes to have student recognize that this message of hope, healing, and struggle is truly something that everyone experiences in one way or another.
“I think my favorite part about To Write Love is once you explain it to someone they get it,” Gallegos said. “It is very relatable and people really understand it. I think this is probably why is has potential to be successful on campus.”
“Everybody knows what it is like to struggle with something,” Gallegos said. “It doesn’t have to be depression or self-injury, but everyone knows what it is like to go through a really hard time and need some form of support or community. We want to make sure to get that message of relatability across.”