The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) is the lead Federal agency for research on mental illnesses. The mission of the NIMH is to transform the understanding and treatment of mental illnesses through basic and clinical research, paving the way for prevention, recovery, and cure.
The urgency of this mission arises from the public health burden. According to recent estimates, mental illnesses account for 21.3 percent of all years lived with disability in the United States. An estimated 9.6 million American adults suffer from a serious mental illness (SMI) in which the ability to function in daily life is significantly impaired. Those with SMI die 10 years earlier than individuals in the general population, on average. Furthermore, over 41,149 Americans die each year from suicide, more than twice the annual mortality from homicide or AIDS. Beyond the morbidity and mortality, a conservative estimate places the direct and indirect financial costs associated with mental illnesses in the United States at well over $300 billion annually. Mental illnesses rank as the third most costly medical conditions in terms of overall health care expenditure, behind heart conditions and traumatic injury.
Suicidal No More: Choosing to Live with Schizoaffective Disorder is a blog by author, public speaker, and NAMI advocate Jennifer Robinson, who discusses her personal struggles and triumphs living with a serious mental illness that involves both psychosis and the symptoms of bipolar disorder. She provides coping tips, resources for people who are experiencing suicidal ideation, suggestions for reaching out for help, and information on what life is like for people who live with serious and persistent mental illnesses. This blog has been online for ten years, and since then Jennifer has co-authored the book Episodes of Schizophrenia, and been published in the anthology Parts Unbound: Narratives on Mental Illness and Health.
It’s been nine years since Jamie posted the original TWLOHA story online, and we’re still here. We’re still working to let people know that hope is real and that they can get the help they deserve. Your story is important.
This began in the spring of 2006, when To Write Love on Her Arms founder Jamie Tworkowski wrote a story about a friend struggling with depression, addiction, and self- injury. The words and the life it represented shed light on the reality of contrast—pain and peace, addiction and sobriety, regret and freedom. The title, “To Write Love on Her Arms,” also represented a goal—to believe that a better life was possible. A MySpace page was created to give the story a home, and T-shirts were sold to pay for the friend’s treatment.
As the days passed and the blog was shared, it became clear that this story was not just about one person. We heard from people longing to lift the heavy weight of depression, to be free from addiction or self-injury, to stay alive and live fully. We also heard from people mourning those they’d lost to such struggles, asking what they could do to bring hope to their communities. We learned that two out of three people who struggle with depression never seek help, and that untreated depression is the leading cause of suicide. In America alone, it’s estimated that 19 million people live with depression, and suicide is the third-leading cause of death among those 15-24 years old. It seemed we had stumbled into a bigger story, a conversation that needed to be had. These are issues of humanity, problems of pain that affect millions of people around the world, regardless of age, race, gender, religious belief, orientation, and background.
Over the years, TWLOHA has become much more than a blog and a T-shirt. Through musician support, tours, and social media, the message of hope and help has reached an audience broader than we could have ever anticipated. We’ve expanded from a computer screen to conferences, campuses, programs, and events around the country and the world, where we challenge the stigma and stereotypes that have surrounded mental health issues for so long. And we’re investing into treatment and recovery, offering financial support to organizations, centers, and individuals laboring in the priceless work of healing.
TWLOHA is honored to be a part of this continuing story, to invite people into the conversation, and to be a bridge to the better life we continue to believe is possible.
AFSP is a multifaceted organization made up of esteemed scientists, dedicated survivors of suicide loss, people with mental disorders and their families, and an expansive network of business and community leaders.
We are at once a grassroots movement, a support network, an educator, a professional research organization and a grant-making foundation. We organize hundreds of events in communities across the country, raising millions of dollars each year to support our work, both locally and nationally. We advocate for social change, supporting policies that contribute to reducing and preventing suicides nationwide. While AFSP does not provide direct services, such as counseling or running a crisis hotline, we do work closely with the organizations providing these services. Through these many roles, we reach hundreds of thousands of people every year. Increasingly, the media has turned to AFSP as their go-to source of expertise on suicide and its prevention. In collaboration with our volunteers and program participants, the following people help to make all of these things happen. To fully achieve its mission, AFSP engages in the following Five Core Strategies: