Tattoo trends come and go, and can be a clear indication of a person’s age, beliefs, style, past, or celebrity crush. Pamela Anderson sparked an influx of barbed wire tattoos, the Spice Girls and Britney Spears made Chinese lettering mainstream, and Harry Styles showed that a coat hanger could be cool. But there’s a new tattoo in town, and its meaning is a lot more significant than a mere trend.
In 2013, Amy Bluel of Wisconsin, America sadly lost her father to suicide. Determined to honour her father as well as raise awareness for mental health issues, she founded a non-profit organisation named Project Semicolon.
Project Semicolon encourages hope and confidence in people troubled by addiction, depression, self-harm and suicide. It encourages people to draw or tattoo a semicolon on their wrist, symbolising that these difficulties are real, but not the end. Just like in a sentence, a semicolon marks a new beginning.
The explanation given on the Project Semicolon:
“A semicolon is used when an author could’ve chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to. The author is you and the sentence is your life.”
Essentially, the semicolon represents that your story isn’t over yet.
The vision of Project Semicolon is that together, a conversation can be started that’s impossible to stop. Too much stigma is attached to mental health issues, and it’s time this ended. Project Semicolon is a way to wear the mark of mental illness proudly, and show the world that you can’t be beaten. It instils love and hope, and encourages a society to openly address the struggles that come from mental illness. It promotes the values of the wearer, and it promotes a world where self-destruction is no longer an escape.
Project Semicolon was originally created as a day where people were encouraged to draw a semicolon on their wrist and photograph it to share on social media. That was back in 2013, and it soon grew to become something greater and more permanent. Today, people all over the world are tattooing the mark as a reminder of their struggle, victory, and survival. For some, it’s a mark of achievement. For others, it’s a mark of determination. And then there are those who simply want to show their support to the 400 million people suffering mental illness today.
When you see a tattoo, it’s considered culturally fair game to enquire about its meaning. When faced with a semicolon, it’s an opportunity to start a conversation on mental health and the huge number of people affected by depression, suicide, addiction and other forms of mental illness.
To tattoo something on yourself, it must be important - it has to be worth talking about. The issues surrounding mental health is certainly that.
Parker Molloy is an American writer, blogger, and transgender rights activist. She wrote:
"I recently decided to get a semicolon tattoo. Not because it's trendy (though, it certainly seems to be at the moment), but because it's a reminder of the things I've overcome in my life. I've dealt with anxiety, depression, and gender dysphoria for the better part of my life, and at times, that led me down a path that included self-harm and suicide attempts. But here I am, years later, finally fitting the pieces of my life together in a way I never thought they could before. The semicolon (and the message that goes along with it) is a reminder that I've faced dark times, but I'm still here."
For Natalie LeFaivre, her semicolon tattoo gives her the opportunity to share her story time and time again. “People ask me all the time what it means. I used to be embarrassed about what I have gone through, but now if I can help just one person, it’s worth it.” She also wears her tattoo as a reminder to herself that her life’s story isn’t over, and to take one day at a time.
Hope is alive
As well as the tattoo, people wanting to join the semicolon movement can share their stories of hope online via the hashtag #HopeisAlive15. On the Project Semicolon Hope is Alive page you will find stories from everyday people who have battled and overcome depression, abuse, addiction, and other forms of mental illness. These are stories that show hope amidst pain and might help those battling mental demons see the light.
How to be a part of Project Semicolon
As well as getting a tattoo and sharing your story, Project Semicolon is always looking for ‘Street Team Members’ that can help start a conversation. To become a street team member:
- Like Project Semicolon on Facebook and invite your friends.
- Follow Project Semicolon’s Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr or Google+ account.
- Subscribe to Project Semicolon’s YouTube channel and share their videos.
- Print out promotional materials and use them to promote Project Semicolon at your school, place of work, church, community building or college.
- Purchase and wear Project Semicolon merchandise.
All information in this article is intended for general information purposes only. Information should not be considered medical advice and is in no way intended to replace a consultation with a qualified medical practitioner. CBHS endeavours to provide independent and complete information, and content may include information regarding services, products and procedures not covered by CBHS Health Cover policies. For full terms, click here.