To Write Love On Her Arms is an organization that supports treatment, prevention, and education regarding anxiety, depression, self-injury, addiction, and other mental health issues. July 22nd-24th, they held a supporter conference in Orlando, FL that was open to anybody from college students interested in helping support their friends and communities to mental health professionals. As a mental health professional, an active member of my church, and someone who loves the mission of TWLOHA, I decided to attend the conference. In today’s post, I wanted to share what I learned and experienced while at the conference.
One of the things I learned from the conference is the role that people interested in supporting those who are struggling with mental health issues can play if they don’t have a formal education in the mental health field. As a professional, this is helpful to know because this is knowledge I can pass on to the loved ones of patients/clients, my community, and those who are interested in mental health but have little or no formal education in this area.
The conference utilized a variety of materials and modalities to educate the attendees but a few key things in particular stood out. 1. They addressed stigma and how it impacts people seeking treatment and sharing their stories. 2. They provided basic information on important mental health issues: anxiety, depression, self-injury, addiction, and eating disorders. They spoke about common symptoms, causes/contributing factors, and treatments available. 3. They addressed a basic way (QPR model) to inquire about if someone you are concerned about is suicidal and how to handle the situation appropriately if the answer is yes. They emphasized that lay people play a “CPR” role in that they do not replace professional help in crisis situations but rather help keep the person alive long enough to get them the professional help they need.
Another thing I learned about at the conference was additional resources that are available. I learned more about the 211 info line and the text crisis line. 211 can not only provide resources for housing, electric, and food, but also, in some counties, provide mental health resources. The text crisis line allows people in crisis to text 741-741 and talk to a trained volunteer. I also found out TWLOHA puts out resource guides for many cities throughout the United States.
Last but not least the biggest thing that stood out to me about this experience is that it provided a safe space, a space in which it was OK to be open and honest about mental health, including your own mental health journey. The message was that regardless of who you are, It is OK to not be OK, just know that hope is real and you are loved.