Tattoos have exploded in popularity over the past decade, and have become an important and artistic way for people to express themselves. Most people get tattoos to tell a story, to showcase the pain, triumph, and obstacles they have faced throughout their lives. Every tattoo means something different to the wearer of it, but in the case of the semicolon tattoo, the meaning is universal.
When Amy Bluel tragically lost her father to suicide, she wanted to commemorate him in a special way while also increasing awareness for mental health problems. She founded Project Semicolon, which allowed her to meet both of her goals. According to the website, Project Semicolon aims to “present hope and love to those struggling with depression, suicide, addiction, and self-injury.”
The semicolon represents the fact that you have complete power over yourself, and can choose to keep fighting, even if you feel like giving up at times. The entire movement aims to bring people together, to empower one another and show that we can all overcome the obstacles we face, no matter the size. You can always rewrite your story, start a new chapter, and recreate your life even if you feel you have nowhere to turn. Your story doesn’t have to end if you simply believe in your ability to create new beginnings.
According to WHO, more than 350 million people globally suffer from depression, which is the leading cause of disability worldwide. People with mental illnesses often feel embarrassed to talk about their issues, or feel like they will become a burden to others by voicing their problems. Many of these people suffer in silence, not knowing who to go to or where to turn. Project Semicolon invites people from all over to share their stories with one another, and wear the tattoo on their skin to show that they’ve committed to their lives and will keep marching onward despite adversities.
Wearing the tattoo is also a comforting reminder that you don’t have to face your issues alone, and many people all over the world have been in your shoes. They know the hardships you have faced, because they themselves have had to cross the same bridges. No matter how lonely you feel, someone out there can relate to your struggles.
The movement also aims to increase compassion toward mental health issues, and Amy even wrote herself on her website that her organization “envisions a community that comes together and stands together in support of one another.” She encourages people to start conversations with others about their mental health issues, rather than resorting to self-harming, drugs, alcohol, or other destructive behaviors that do not serve people’s best interests.
If you currently suffer from any sort of mental illness, remember that you do not have to face your problems and fears alone. Many others struggle with mental health all over the world, and many choose to see the silver lining in the clouds and make the conscious choice to live a positive, fulfilling life. Project Semicolon aims to support and inspire others to share their stories and get help when they need it, but they are not a 24-hour hotline. In an emergency situation, please call your local authorities, a mental health professional, or 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433) for immediate help.