Lines of Love: Connection, Compassion, Service

Providing Awareness, Education, and Support to Those In Need

Let’s Look Beyond The Label

Maybe one of the ways to get beyond the label is to see the beauty in our children, and give them the space to be expressive while providing them love and support.

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When Parents Bully: Exposing One Origin of Teen Depression

iwx5qfL1-IKj3AuwE-0f33yYpuNjgGjKLJ-jWm8i3BLJug-mWLntmldJKdjniDHho-Z_Tp-aDXcoIK3T3EmiNg=w426-h240-nIt’s not hard for many of us to remember the first time we might have been pushed around by someone our own age or, perhaps, a little older. It might have been for lunch money, or some territorial dispute, as it was for me when I was a kid.

It might have been for the way we looked, or how tall or short we might have been, or how much we weighed. It seemed like our peers were relentless in finding reasons to push us around or make fun of us.

Sometimes, that also meant exclusion from groups. Painful stuff coming from our peers, right?

It’s bad now, too, and it’s even worse with the 24/7 onslaught of social media attacks.

As if the struggles for adolescents and teens are not bad enough peer to peer, there’s a growing number of cases where the bullying isn’t happening solely among kids around the same age.

It is happening directly from the parents, as this article on adult social engineering exposes.

Being Left Out Hurts: Let’s Stop Social Engineering Now.

This post, published by Lisa Barr back in 2012 on her website, Girlilla Warfare: A Mom’s Guide to Surviving the Suburban Jungle, struck me personally, as I have seen firsthand the bullying parents can do to exclude or isolate their own children’s peers. Whether it is a birthday party, at school, or an extra-curricular activity or team, parents play a powerful role in both the positive and negative dynamics of their children’s relationships, often putting their sons and daughters in the uncomfortable position of shunning or bullying friends.

It’s a concern that was discussed nationally in 2011, when The Today Show featured “Monsters in Minivans” and was later covered in-depth in this article titled, “Meet The Newest Bully On The Block: The Mean Mom.”

We have heard the tragic outcomes of such selfish acts all across the country, dating back to 2006 when one mom created a fictitious MySpace account and bullied her daughter’s friend (“Parents: Cyberbullying Led To Teen’s Suicide“). Soon thereafter, the bullied 13 year old hanged herself in her bedroom closet.

The link between bullying and depression in adolescents and teens is very strong; when parents get involved, it makes the situation even more dangerous for children who struggle with self-confidence, acceptance or a mental illness.

Parents have the opportunity to play an important, positive role in the lives of their own children, as well as their children’s peers. Practicing inclusion instead of exclusion, opening the doors for invitations and gatherings instead of closing them, and providing a genuine, nurturing environment for all is part of establishing a foundation of wellness and self-confidence.

Our children are vulnerable. There are times when they need the security of an adult to provide a safe space for them that is judge-free and welcoming. If the individuals who should be role models in the lives of our teens begin to behave as middle-school adolescents, our children have no one left to turn to.

Parents, be the origin of wellness, not depression, for your community’s youngsters. Show them the strength that kindness, friendship, and love can foster. They need us more than they will ever let us know.

Lines of love new logo2If you are struggling with depression or anxiety, or you know someone who is struggling, don’t hesitate to get help. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Remember: You Are Never Alone.

My Friend Is Depressed: What Can I Do?

9T4X567TEOne of the most common questions we are asked at Lines of Love is, “My friend is depressed and I don’t know what to do. How can I help?”

The answer is pretty simple, but we can get overwhelmed with presumed responsibility of taking care of everything, and immediately. We look for the instant fix that is going to make everything better; in most cases, there is no instant fix, and our efforts are not going to take care of everything.

We need to shift our thinking away from being the sole answer to our friends’ needs and focus more on how we can contribute to helping them along the path toward wellness.

Here are ten things you can do to be that friend, to be that line of love to someone in need.

1. Acknowledge. One of the easiest things you can do is acknowledge to your friend that he or she has seemed distant or nor his or her “usual” self. Isolation or “alone time” is not what a friend usually needs in such times. Take the time to reach out, recognize that you have noticed a change in mood or behavior, and let the person know you care.

2. Listen. Allow your friend to talk, and without interruption. Keep your focus on them, not your phone, and look into their eyes when they talk. Show that you are listening without judgment. Demonstrate that you are not trying to solve their problems. Just listen. For many, this is the only way they know how to “get it out” and to manage what is happening to them. When they are sharing, be fully present as a listener; you don’t need to be anything else (nor do they want you to be).

3. Understand. When you do respond, share that you understand what they are feeling and what they have expressed. Don’t try to solve, and don’t try to dig deeper with questions that might sound judgmental or even condescending. If you have a story to share that will help your friend understand your empathy, share it — but again, without trying to solve anything or sounding like your situation was worse (“You think YOU got it bad…listen to THIS.”). It’s not a competition; it’s just an acknowledgment that you understand, and they are not alone.

4. Stay Close. We have never been more connected, locally and globally — and yet, there are times when we have never felt more isolated. Provide your contact information, if your friend does not already have it, and check in with them on a routine basis. Sometimes, random texts and messages of positivity or just checking in can make a world of difference. Don’t hesitate to reach out and let them know that you are there, thinking of them.

5. Have Patience. Just because you have acknowledged, listened, understood, and stayed close, it doesn’t mean that your friend will now have a happy life of wellness, 24/7. Remember: You are not a solution; you are a contributor and supporter toward a healthy lifestyle. There will be ups and downs, and your friend will need you to be there regardless of how good or bad things might seem. Abandon the idea that it is a quick fix; friends are there for the long journey.

6. Encourage Wellness. Taking a friend out for a night of fun at the local club is not necessarily what he or she needs. Alcohol and drug use does not solve the problem; it intensifies it. Any temporary “relief” that might come from alcohol or drug use ultimately produces the same — often more severe — negative effect on that person. Instead of manipulating the mind and body with alcohol and drugs, find healthy alternatives that will provide long-lasting effects that promote wellness and independence.

7. Know (and share) Your Numbers. There are local, state, and national crisis centers and hotlines that are meant for both those who are struggling and those who have a friend who is in need. The National Crisis Hotline number is  1-800-273-TALK (8255). For a longer list of crisis numbers and centers, check out this earlier post on how to get immediate help. Share these numbers with your friend. Let them know that there is always somebody available, ready to listen.

8. Suggest Professional Assistance. In addition to providing local and national crisis hotlines, remind your friend of the professional resources that are currently available, including counselors, counseling and intervention centers, wellness classes and sessions, and school or work assistance centers or services. Many of these are free, covered by insurance, or require only a small or nominal fee. Make sure your friend knows that such assistance is not a replacement for you being there; it is just another collaborative partner on this journey toward wellness.

9. Empower With Positivity And Wellness Tools. Walking outdoors is one of the best activities you can do with a friend who is struggling with depression. Listening to appropriate music or reading materials that promote positive or uplifting lifestyles is another way to surround yourself with stimuli that encourage control, positivity, and overall wellness. Identify the triggers for depression or mental illness, and help you your friend remove them from his or her lifestyle. Crushing lyrics about being alone, books with depressed individuals as the central characters, and even videos or games that foster negativity can all contribute to an unhealthy way of living. Recognize the negative or stress triggers, and replace them with positive, motivating stimuli.

frienship_bands10. Be A Line Of Love. Educate yourself about depression, mental illness, and anxiety so that you can have a better understanding of what others might be going through, and so you can help others remove the stigma attached to mental illness. Be aware of programs and events in your area that might be beneficial to others (AFSP walks is one good example). Check through our own ways at Lines of Love to let others know that they are not alone (our Bracelet Makers program continues to be one of our most popular ways people can get involved).

We encourage you to share your stories as a friend, or as an individual working toward wellness, at Querencia: A Literary Advocacy Project. Lines of Love and Querencia are working together to educate, promote awareness, and end the silence through stories, poetry, and exclusive interviews.

Being a friend to someone in need is not hard; the benefits they reap from your kindness and understanding, however, might be life-changing. Don’t hesitate to be a Line of Love. Share these ten tips to help with others, and encourage them to be Lines of Love for the people in their own lives.

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Lines of Love First Annual 2K Walk For Wellness Event

Lines of Love will be hosting its first annual 2K Walk for Wellness event on Saturday, May 17, 2014 at Centennial High School in Ellicott City, MD. The event begins at 9 a.m., and the walk commences at 10 a.m.

Proceeds from the event will go to SPEAK (Suicide Prevention Education Awareness for Kids). For more information, go to

The event will include representatives from area organizations promoting wellness, crisis and suicide prevention, and stress and anxiety management. In addition, information about preventing bullying and cyberbullying in schools and communities will also be available.

We are looking for established, not-for-profit vendors in the field of mental wellness who are interested in setting up a table or booth in our start/finish area of the walk. There is no charge for this opportunity. Please contact Rus at if interested.

Registration for individual walkers is only $20. This includes a free Lines of Love T shirt, a handmade Lines of Love bracelet, free food and water, and free chances for door prizes. Teams of 6 or more walkers are only $16 per individual.

The course is 1.25 miles for individuals and teams alike. Join us as we walk for wellness and bring awareness and education to our community about the issues that matter so much to our children, family members, and friends.

You can download the Registration Form HERE.

You can also download the Walk For Wellness Flyer HERE to print out and post in your school, workplace, or organization.

Contact: Rus VanWestervelt,; 443.834.9489.

You Are Not Alone

you-are-not-aloneI have been reminded, in recent days, how important it is to remember this simple statement: You Are Not Alone.

It doesn’t matter if you are struggling with mental illness, if you are sad about the physical illness of loved ones, or if you are having any kind of hardship: You Are Not Alone.

We see individuals in need all the time, wherever we go: at the grocery store, in our school, in our workplace, in our home. We even struggle with how to help, or we feel bad if we don’t do anything at all.

This morning, I needed to run to the store to pick up some cream. I arrived about 3 minutes before the doors opened, and I was joined by a handful of people who were waiting as well. Most of us talked about the usual things: weather (of course) and how much we love Trader Joe’s. One woman, in her mid-40’s, stood a little off to the side, silent.

When the doors opened, I stood to the right while the others walked in. She hesitated and gestured for me to go ahead, but without looking at me. I smiled, did not budge, and simply said, “after you.”

She caught my eyes then, and seemed a little surprised. She thanked me with genuine appreciation, and walked through the open doors.

I have no idea if she is struggling with anything in her life, but I do know that those 3 seconds that we shared carried with them a message of support, of understanding. “You Are Not Alone” resonated, and I hope she carries it with her, as I will as well.

At Lines of Love, we are here for all individuals, young and old. We do not question what is troubling you. We do not judge you. We do not have any expectations for reciprocity.

It’s just pretty simple and straightforward: You Are Not Alone. With those four words, we have the strength of a thousand sunrises to carry on, together, no matter what challenges we might face.


The Most Important Number That Should Be On Your Phone

1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)


Drawings in this post are original and created by a 15-year-old teen.

Before you do anything else — and that includes reading the rest of this post — put that number in your phone’s contacts list.

Go ahead. I’ll wait. First name: Hotline. Last name: Suicide.

Here it is again.

1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)

Deaf Hotline: 1-800-799-4TTY (4889)

This is the most general number — besides 911 in immediate or urgent situations — that will get you, a friend, or a family member the quickest help that might be needed in a time of crisis or uncertainty.

Who should call this number? Let’s dispel a few rumors with a few facts.

Help is needed not just for teens struggling with bullying and cyberbullying issues. No one is immune from depression, anxiety, or having thoughts of suicide.

According to The Department of Veterans Affairs in February, 2013, 22 U.S. Veterans are committing suicide daily. That’s one suicide every 65 minutes. And, the shocking thing about this statistic is that it is based on information provided by only 21 states, comprising just 40% of the U.S. population.

Also, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting 40 million adults (that’s 18% of the population).

Anxiety disorders do arise from very stressful situations that teens and adults face every day: school, tests, college, work, acceptance, success. When you combine the daily stresses with the fact that these disorders also arise from genetics, brain chemistry, and personality, we begin to get a clearer picture that it isn’t something that we can just “get over” or “deal with.”

So, if you are calling a crisis center because you are concerned about a friend, they will understand that. This hotline is for people who are having a crisis AND for family members and friends who are concerned about another individual.

As well, there is no magical line regarding depression, anxiety, or thoughts of suicide that you have to cross to call this number. If you notice that you are uncommonly depressed for a few weeks, call. If you notice a friend is suddenly withdrawn and you don’t know what to do, call. If you have a son or daughter that is under a lot of stress and is showing signs of anxiety or depression — and you don’t know how to respond, call.

If you are NOT in Maryland, and you are looking for specific help in your state, try They have crisis numbers and information for every state.

Here are a few specific national hotlines that might be suitable for your specific needs, regardless of where you live.

Youth America Hotline: Counseling For Teens By Teens

Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Youth (The Trevor Project)

National Graduate Student Crisis Line
1-800-GRAD-HLP (1-800-472-3457)

Vet2Vet Veteran’s Crisis Hotline
1-877-VET-2-VET (1-877-838-2838)

Veteran’s Crisis Line
1-800-273-8255, then press 1

Postpartum Depression Hotline
1-800-PPD-MOMS (1-800-773-6667)

If you are in Maryland, scroll down. Counties and some university systems are listed. If you have updated information or would like me to add your information to this list, email me at



Maryland Youth Crisis Hotline: 1-800-422-0009; TDD Line for the hearing impaired: 410-531-5086

Baltimore First Step Youth Services Center ( 410-521-3800

Baltimore Suicide Prevention Hotline/Crisis Response: 410-752-2272

Baltimore County Crisis Response: 410-931-2214

Columbia Grassroots Crisis Intervention (, 24/7/365: Hotline: 410-531-6677

Frederick County Hotline (, 24/7/365: Hotline: 301-662-2255

Frederick County Local Youth Crisis Hotline: 301-694-8255

Frederick County Parent Stress Line: 301-662-2255

Frederick County Senior Reassurance Program: 301-663-0011

Montgomery County Hotline (24/7/365): 240-777-4000; 240-777-4815 (TTY)

Prince George’s County Hotline & Suicide Prevention Center (serving Anne Arundel, Calvert, Charles, Montgomery, Prince George’s, and St. Mary’s counties) ( 24/7/365:

PG Suicide Hotline: 301-864-7130

PG General Crisis and Referral Line: 301-864-7161

PG County Crisis Response System: 301-927-4500

Salisbury Life Crisis Center: 410-749-4357 (HELP); 410-749-4363


University of Maryland

HELP Center (University of Maryland – 3105 South Campus Dining Hall)
Telephone: 301-314-HELP
Hours of Operation:

◦ Monday – Thursday, 2:00 pm – 2:00 am
◦ Friday, 2:00 pm – 10:00 pm
◦ Saturday and Sunday, 4:00 pm – 12:00 am

Active Minds at Maryland:
They have a great counseling center at

Numbers and hours for emergency services—

University Counseling Center (University of Maryland — Shoemaker Building)
Telephone: 301-314-7651
Hours of Operation:
◦ Monday – Tuesday, Thursday – Friday — 8:30 am – 4:30 pm

◦ Wednesday — 8:30 am – 9:00 pm

◦ Saturday & Sunday — CLOSED

Mental Health Service (University of Maryland — Health Center)
Telephone: 301-314-8106
Hours of Operation:
◦ Monday – Friday – 8:30 am – 5:00 pm

◦ Saturday & Sunday – CLOSED

Towson University

Here’s the link to the Counseling Center:

Hours: Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Phone: 410-704-2512


Active Minds If you’re interested in Active Minds at TU, you can contact their president Chrissy Richardson at You can get information about their weekly meetings, their upcoming events, or suggest other ways that we can all work to erase the stigma around mental health and treatment. You can find the Towson chapter of Active Minds on Facebook here:


University Counseling Services
Student Development & Success Center
(between Chesapeake and Susquehanna Halls)
Monday-Friday 8:30am-5:00pm
The UMBC, University Counseling Services is accredited by the International Association of Counseling Services, Inc.

For emergency during hours above: Call 410-455-2472 or walk-in

For immediate assistance during all other hours:

On campus, contact:

  • Residential Life staff (Resident Assistant or Community Director) or
  • call Campus Police at 410-455-5555.

In addition, area crisis hotlines include:

  • Grassroots Crisis Intervention Center: 410-531-6677

Salisbury University

Guerrieri University Center
Room 263
Salisbury University
Salisbury, MD 21801-6860

Contact: (410) 543-6070 (phone)
(410) 548-4052 (fax)

Monday through Friday

8:00 am – 5:00 pm, Fall/Spring semesters, Winter term
8:00 am – 4:30 pm, Summer

Active Minds at Salisbury

Facebook group:

Location: Student Counseling Center

Don’t hesitate to make the call. These resources are here to help all of us. Let’s eliminate the stigma attached to depression and realize that we’re all in this together.

Make a difference. Make the call.


Lines of Love, Rus VanWestervelt on Because Hope Matters Radio

Rus VanWestervelt was the featured guest on Because Hope Matters Radio tonight (March 4, 2013). You can listen to the entire show here:

Listen to internet radio with Because Hope Matters Radio on Blog Talk Radio

Rus spoke a great deal about Lines of Love, bullying, cyberbullying, the power of writing, and creating communities founded in wellness, self-confidence, and respect.

Lines of Love National Bracelet Campaign Update: Bracelets Will Be Hand-Delivered

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We continue to receive bracelets from all over the country, and we are grateful for the care and love that has gone in to each bracelet, each note, each tag. When we open each envelope and package, we feel the compassion, the love, and the support that you are giving the Newtown community. We will never be able to say “Thank You” enough.

Recently, there have been numerous reports in the published media that Newtown has been overwhelmed with gifts of love and support. Warehouses are being filled as items are catalogued and stored. Some of you have contacted us directly and have asked, “What will happen with our bracelets? Will they ever really reach the people who need them the most?”

In a single word, Yes.

Earlier today, I had a conversation with a Howard County, MD resident who grew up in Newtown, CT and is an alum of Sandy Hook Elementary School. This individual has agreed to carry all of your bracelets that you have so graciously made and hand-deliver them to the teachers and residents affected most directly by this tragedy. We offer this individual our heartfelt thanks and appreciation for making sure your bracelets reach the people who need them the most.

From your hearts to theirs, line by line, person to person, our collective Lines of Love will reach Newtown.

Please continue to send your bracelets, notes, and tags, and please do your best to have them postmarked by January 7, 2013. If for some reason you will be a day or two late with putting them in the mail, we will certainly wait for your package to arrive.

Once again, the address is:

Lines of Love
PO Box 9738
Towson, MD 21284

Thank you, every one of you. We are grateful for your lines of love.


Five Ways You Can Help Lines of Love and the Newtown Community


Although our National Campaign is only 4 days old, we are making great strides in gaining support from all corners of the country. We are grateful to supporters in Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Washington state. Thank you so much for being lines of love to the Newtown Community.

I have received emails from people all over the country wanting to help in a variety of ways. Some are not too sure how to make bracelets, others want to organize statewide rallies and events to make 100 or more bracelets. And, we have a few people who are not too sure exactly what this campaign is all about. I want to take this opportunity to explain exactly what we are doing, and how you can participate in five different ways.

First — What Is This National Lines of Love Campaign All About?

Simply put, Lines of Love, a group comprising teens in Ellicott City, MD, connects people (who are struggling) with the resources they need. Sometimes, that means other teens or young adults struggling with anxiety or depression. At other times, Lines supports victims of bullying. In everything we do, we believe in promoting wellness, kindness, and compassion for others in and beyond their respective communities. For the grieving members of the Sandy Hook community, we are providing Lines of Love from all over the country to remind them in this time of need that they are not alone. And, as time moves on and the rest of the country begins to resume a “normal” way of life, we hope that the bracelets made by friends from around the country will continue to provide a reminder that they are still not alone, and they never will be.

Here are five ways you can be a part of that lifelong reminder.

  1. Make Bracelets. We provide instructions for our “classic” Lines of Love bracelet here. You can vary your pattern, as well as your colors. All we ask is that you do your best to include yellow (for Lines of Love) and green and white (Sandy Hook’s school colors).
  2. Plan An Organized Event. This can be as simple as getting a few friends together to watch a good movie and make bracelets for a couple of hours. Or, you can plan a college-wide event with a sorority, sports team, or organization/club to make special bracelets that, in some way, weave your group with Sandy Hook. Maybe you add your own school color to the bracelet, or you add a charm that shows unity and support.
  3. Donate Green, Yellow, and White Embroidery Floss/Thread. Find a group that is making bracelets, or if you have children, simply buy the thread, print out the instructions, and encourage them to make bracelets for this community.
  4. Make Bracelet Tags. This is a very easy way to get involved if you don’t want to or can’t make bracelets. We made tags that were of a heavy card stock, 1 inch wide by 4.25 inches long. We then punched a hole in one end and decorated the tags with quotes, phrases, and plenty of colors (see the sample in the picture at the top of this post). Each bracelet will have a personally handwritten tag attached to it. We have about 100 already made; we need 900 more!
  5. Contact Your Local Media. You can download a copy of the press release here. Contact them through Facebook, their own media websites, or via fax to the TV or radio station. If you know of an event going on in your area, invite the media to attend, and give them a background of Lines of Love and the purpose of the campaign.

All materials should be postmarked by December 31, 2012 and sent to LINES OF LOVE, PO BOX 9738, TOWSON, MD 21284. However, we plan on sending more “waves” of bracelets as they come in to us. If you miss this deadline, please don’t feel like it is too late to get involved. Drop us a note and tell us what’s coming, and we’ll get you scheduled for the next shipment.

Finally, some people have asked me, “How can I stay involved in Lines of Love?” At Lines, we believe the following: Once a member, always a member. You will forever be a part of our national team of Lines, connecting people to the resources they need, offering hope, faith, and love in all ways.

Lines of Love Newtown

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