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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

FYI Talk ~~ Serena Numanox & To Write Love on Her Arms

If you've read any of my articles and commentaries here on SLE, then you know I'm a fan of taking part in things in Second Life that move beyond the metaverse and that connect with tangible things in the "actual" world. In the actual world, I am a pen pal to a few young girls who are brilliant, creative, and have great futures ahead of them. It's something I do because I think it's important to connect with our young women (and men) and help them to see that there are positives in life and that even through trials, we can overcome them. In my actual life, I spend a great deal of time connecting with those who need an ear, a word, something that can help them get over the trials that afflict them.

Being this way, it's no wonder that I would finally learn about the incredible organization To Write Love on Her Arms [TWLOHA] and to learn that there is an SL group that helps to foster the mission of TWLOHA.

So, me being me, I went in search of the founder of the SL organization, Serena Numanox, and wrangle some time away from her to talk about TWLOHA and what others can do to help the mission.

SC: How did you find yourself connected with TWLOHA?
Serena: Well, I first found myself connected with the organization when I was a troubled teenager looking for help. I had been going through a lot in my life at that point, and a friend told me about TWLOHA. I was looking for hope, and the organization proved to be a light shining through the dark for me.

SC: I can definitely see how that would be the case. I had just recently learned about the org through my RL Facebook page and thought, "Man, it would have been nice to have something like this when I was younger and going through bad issues." Did you originally learn about the org in SL or in RL?
Serena: Yeah, a lot of people seem to be saying that. It is a blessing in a lot of peoples' lives, that is for sure. I first learned about it in RL, from a friend in high school a few years ago on To Write Love On Her Arms Day. It's literally a day where people actually write the word LOVE on their arms. I prefer to do mine in permanent marker =)

TWLOHA in SL Founder, Serena Numanox

SC: THAT is awesome. I didn't know there was a day or about the writing love on their arms. Man, GREAT! What's the actual day of the event?
Serena: Yeah, it really is a touching event. To see so many people raising awareness of suicide, depression and self-injury is a beautiful thing. The event takes place every year on November 13th. Though, if it happens to fall on a weekend, there are many people who celebrate on the Friday before or Monday after to raise more awareness at work or school, etc.

SC: Makes sense, :-) How long has the org been in-world, and what is your position in the sl-leg of the organization?
Serena: TWLOHA has been in world since 2008, and my position is "Lead Lover". I created the group, but my actual position is no different than everyone else's when it comes down to it, I'm a follower and believer in the organization. I hope that makes sense.

SC: No, that totally makes sense; it's about the organization and not about any one person's position.
Serena: Exactly!

SC: What projects, activities, events, etc. has TWLOHA done in-world to bring attention to the organization and its mission?
Serena: So far, there hasn't been a whole lot of activity in world, but right now I'm in the process of setting up a headquarters for the organization, and soon after I'm hoping to hold an awareness benefit gala and hopefully many other things. I would have had all of this set up much sooner, but I had to take a very extended leave from SL and so sadly it got put off until now.

SC: I know about RL obligations, but it's so wonderful to hear that things will be moving full-steam ahead to help bring awareness to the org and its mission.
Serena: It really is a blessing to be able to come back and start working with the organization again.

SC: For those in-world that want to take part in the organization, how can they help?
Serena: Well, once I get the headquarters set up, I am hoping to set up a few different areas with counselors and the like. If anyone is interested in helping in that way, they can send me a note card with their name, just letting me know that they'd be interested in helping. Other than that, it's all about awareness, and that means spreading the word. But being a part of the organization is SO much more than just helping "officially" within the group. The number one way anyone can help is by being an ear for listening. Sometimes that is all a person needs, just to know someone is there for them.

SC: That is so very true. *nods* Been listening, seeing these stories of young people who are taking their lives...some of whom...many of whom call out in some way to other people and for those pleas to not have been heard kills me. Seems like more than in any time I've been alive for, we need even more awareness of how to reach out and help.
Serena: I totally agree with you. That is why I had such a desire to continue working with the organization now. No matter what the reason, be it family problems, domestic abuse, homosexuality, bullying, depression or whatever the case may be, there is always going to be SOMETHING troubling someone, and if the cries aren't heard...the worst happens and someone ends up taking their own life. It is my sincere hope that one day nobody will feel like taking their life is the only way.

SC: I have one final question, and it's something I've been thinking about a lot in regards to how I can keep my mind open to hearing the cries...we don't want to be a paranoid society, where we badger children and others and assume that every down moment is a need for a cry for help. We all go through and sometimes the going through is not a severe need for intervention. What, in your opinion, can we do to become open to hear without becoming open to fear and paranoia?
Serena: That is a very great question, and I am so glad you asked. First, look for the basic signs. A cry for help is more than just a down moment, obviously. If you notice anything out of the ordinary, like self injury, that would be the first sign of being in need of intervention. The basic forms are cutting, burning, pulling out hair, purposely bruising one's self and/or breaking bones. Some of these might sound pretty extreme, but it's the sad truth that it does happen. Basically, trust your gut and talk to them if you think something's up. If it's a cry that needs to be heard, it will be if you ask.

SC: Good advice. I think if parents also start the open lines of communication with their children EARLY in their lives, that will help too children get leery and closed-off when parents all of a sudden start questioning and asking things. But if it's a part of their daily life, they feel more open to talk when asked questions.
Serena: You are definitely right about that. That is more important than most people even realize. You took the words right out of my mouth!

Moi in my TWLOHA t-shirt

As Serena said, the TWLOHA in SL is on the lookout for those willing to lend an ear, a heart, a word. You can contact Serena Numanox in world to see about joining the group and helping in-world.

What are other ways you can help?

As Serena told those in the TWLOHA group recently, "Like I said...these are only a very few of the many ways you can get involved. The most important way you can ever be involved with TWLOHA is by being an ear for someone who needs to listen. You never know, your ear could end up saving someone's life. It sounds funny, but it's true."

Lend YOUR ear today.

Here are just some quick facts about depression I received from Serena:
  • 121 million people worldwide suffer from depression. (World Health Organization)

  • 18 million of these cases are happening in the United States. (The National Institute of Mental Health)

  • Between 20% and 50% of children and teens struggling with depression have a family history of this struggle and the offspring of depressed parents are more than three times as likely to suffer from depression. (U.S. Surgeon General's Survey, 1999)

  • Depression often co-occurs with anxiety disorders and substance abuse, with 30 percent of teens with depression also developing a substance abuse problem. (NIMH)

  • 2/3 of those suffering from depression never seek treatment.

  • Untreated depression is the number one cause of suicide, and suicide is the third leading cause of death among teenagers. (NIMH)

You can find more facts and signs of depression here:


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