Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Warped Tour 2008 Interview: Chris Youngblood of To Write Love On Her Arms

One of the many organizations that joined the Warped Tour to spread their message, To Write Love on Her Arms simply reaches out to people in trouble, whether it be addiction, depression, suicide or any other trouble faced in today's world. Chris Youngblood, TWLOHA's representative at their Warped Tour tent, gave me some more info on their goals and achievements.

RnRnMN: Is the focus of your work suicide and addiction or any difficulty that young people face?

CY: The work we do focuses on difficulty any person, young or old, can face. We believe these issues of suicide, addiction, self-injury, or depression can affect anyone. We don't focus on just the issues of suicide and addiction either. One of the most common issues that we get questioned about, that isn't something we address in our "mission statement," is eating disorders. So we're definitely looking into how to address those things in our find help section and educate ourselves on as well, so we can give people somewhere to go when they ask about them.

RnRnMN: In such a plentiful time and place, why do you think it is that so many kids in America suffer?

CY: I think no matter how many advantages a person can have in their life, or how many materials they can be given, it doesn't mean they're immune to feeling alone. We realize it's hard for a lot of people to communicate and trust and have a strong community around themselves. We want to be a voice that encourages those things. To tell your have people you can turn to and trust in.

RnRnMN: Obviously, things have gotten pretty serious by the time you get involved, but what can someone do to help themselves before things get to that point? What can friends do?

CY: It goes back to my previous answer. One of the biggest things we do is communicate and encourage the people that turn to us. We want to encourage and challenge people to have someone they can turn to and trust in. It's an amazing feeling to know you have that in your life. Friends can be a catalyst for this. Be genuine to their friends when they ask, "How are you?" Let them share what's going on in their life and in their head. Paying attention can mean the absolute world to someone who needs their story to be heard.

RnRnMN: You're a Christian organization, but you're very explicit that your services are open to everyone because "Christian" can alienate people. Why do you think that is? Do you see dispelling that notion as part of your mission or is it incidental to your work?

CY: We actually wouldn't even consider ourselves to be a Christian organization. We, as people and staff, have our own beliefs and we think that's where labels should stay. You're right, labeling an organization "Christian" can alienate people. There are many people out there who feel like there's a judgmental stigma that goes along with the word and the people who call themselves Christian will guilt them with everything thing they have done wrong, or tell them the only way to be better is through the lord. We want people to know they have a place to come to and trust, where they won't be judge and they won't get the words from a bible waved in front of their face. We're here for everyone and we feel good about who we've been able to reach by putting ourselves out there like we have.

RnRnMN: Both religion and rock and roll seem to play an important part in how you reach people. Many people on both sides feel the two are at odds with each other. How do you see them working together? Does one lead people to the other?

CY: We saw them work together great at a week-long event we took part in this past July called, Cornerstone. It is known to be a Christian music festival and we were able to connect with many passionate people who felt these issues were important. We heard some great stories from people about how certain band's music and lyrics pulled them through a rough night. I'm sure there are stories out there from people who had no beliefs and heard a band they loved and took a listen to their lyrics and then found out the beliefs of the people in the band, and then from there they were lead to a religious view. And that's a beautiful thing. For someone to find themselves through something like that, and it gives them that light in a room of darkness, then let it be and be encouraging to that person.

RnRnMN: You get a lot of support from bands. Do you approach them or have you found that they come to you? How important is that support and why?

CY: Bands are definitely a huge reason why we are where we are. The response from them coming to us and sharing a little of their story, or how much they appreciate our voice in these issues is something we're very thankful for. I'm currently out on the Vans Warped Tour and the bands out on this tour have been amazing to us. Music can give a voice and words to people who can't figure out what exactly to say. It can make them feel. Bands can make this happen. The fact that the bands out here wear our shirts on stage and that can possibly have a few people in their audience raise their eyebrows and wonder what "To Write Love On Her Arms." is, and then they can find our tent and ask us questions or flip through our information book, is honestly a privilege.

RnRnMN: Two of the organizations you support fight human slavery. How does that tie in to your work fighting depression, addiction and suicide?

CY: In early 2007, Jamie and his sister Emily took a trip to India in an amazing experience where they saw there was a need. There are people there who deal with these issues. That are broken. It's something that makes you realize these issues aren't just something that Americans deal with. People all over the world deal with these issues. Human slavery is a very big issue in that area of the world and that can lead to those people seeing their only outlet being suicide. If they don't turn to that than abuse and depression can be something they will deal with for the rest of their life. We have mentioned how much we like the idea of being a global organization and we're taking the first step in addressing the fact that these are issues that are dealt with not just in our corner of the world.

RnRnMN: If you could give kids a message in a single sentence, what would it be?

CY: Your story is important and we are here to listen.



See all of my coverage from the Warped Tour in Columbia, MD on July 16, 2008 here.

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