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HELP AND HOPE ALWAYS AT HAND

A TATTOO OF THE WORD 'LOVE' GIVES TEEN INSPIRATION.

Sydney Lanman, huge history buff and fan of the Transformers trilogy, has a tattoo on her wrist that reminds her she is loved, and to love herself.

She says that message, and the recovery organization To Write Love on Her Arms, has helped her stay cut-free more than two years.

"I was going through a really hard time, with my parents going through a divorce," explains Lanman, who is a is a senior at Strawberry Crest High.

She thought it was her fault. She began dating someone who pressured her to do things she didn't want to. She became depressed. She started cutting herself.

For a while, she says, Lanman struggled to find ways to stay positive, and even struggled to stay alive. Getting through each day was a challenge.

Then she found To Write Love on Her Arms online, mentioned on another website. The movement is dedicated to finging hope and help for those suffering from depression, addiction and self-injury. "To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA.com) pretty much gave me hope. Reading all the different stories . . . kept me alive."

Lanman also sought the help of a psychiatrist and psychologist, and continues to see them, though not as frequently. "Without their help," she says, "I'd be lost."

Three days before Lanman turned 16 (and after talking her mom into it), she got "LOVE" tattooed on her wrist.It's a reminder to stay cut-free, she says, and that she needs to have hope and stay strong even when life is difficult.

Lanman stopped by the To Write Love on Her Arms booth at Next Big Thing in St. Petersburg last year and talked about what the organization has meant to her. One of its campaigns asks teenagers to explain their biggest fears and dreams. Lanman says her fear is relapsing to what she used to be - someone without hope. Someone who cut herself. Someone who had thoughts of suicide.

She says her greatest dream is to tell her story, to help keep other people alive, just like To Write Love on Her Arms helped her. She wrote that on the walls of the booth.

Lanman also credits the band A Day to Remember for her survival. "They also helped keep me alive. One of their songs, Have Faith in Me, says 'With the weight of the world on my shoulders they just want to see me fall...' and that's pretty much my entire life, because I take everything seriously and I feel that everything is on me."

Lanman's faith in herself is stronger now, and she has some advice for peoplestruggling with depression: "Find someone to tell. Stay strong. (Cutting and suicide) aren't worth it," she says. "Don't let little things bother you; it's the big things that matter."

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By the numbers

- 350 MILLION people worldwide suffer from depression. (World Health Organization)

- 18 MILLION people in the United States suffer from depression. (National Institute of Mental Health)

- BETWEEN 20 PERCENT AND 50 PERCENT 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)

- 30 PERCENT of teens with depression also develop a substance abuse problem. In addition, depression often co-occurs with anxiety disorders. (NIMH)

- NUMBER ONE cause of suicide is untreated depression. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among teenagers. (NIMH)

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

Compiled by TWLOHA.com

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