On April 16, 2013, thousands were made aware of and 0ffered hope against the stigmas that come with addiction, depression, suicide, and self-harm. Amy Bleuel, who
lost her father to suicide in 2003, wanted to use her father’s suicide to help others to find the positive in their pain. “Project Semicolon” became both the name and the symbol of the organization. Because a semicolon is used in place of a period by a writer who chooses to continue a sentence instead of ending it, the name reminds people that their own sentence is not finished yet.
It was quickly discovered by Bleuel that even though there are so many who suffer from inner conflict, people want to live on and finish their story. There are also those who have overcome their battles and wish to encourage other people who may feel trapped inside their own addiction or struggle. Now, Project Semicolon is worldwide through the help of social media. The semicolon symbol serves as a reminder of the promise to keep one’s story going, as well as a reminder of the struggles the one who wears the symbol has overcome.
Bleuel has a vision for Project Semicolon as well as a list of goals she would like to see the project accomplish.
- Lower suicide rates worldwide
- Open discussions about mental illness, suicide, and addiction
- Let people know that love and hope are alive
- Societies openly addressing the struggles of suicide, mental illness, and addiction
- Churches openly discussing and addressing these issues with genuine love
- Societies will see and understand their values
- Societies will come together and stand in support of each other
- A world where escape is not sought in drugs and alcohol
- A world where self-harm is not an option of escape
- There will be a revolution of love that declares there are still stories that are not finished
People face battles every day. Some of these conflicts can be seen by others, but most are fought quietly on the inside. Grappling on the inside is the most difficult because people feel as if they are fighting alone. Project Semicolon has offered a visual reminder of what the organization wants people to know – that their sentence is not over yet. People have a story to tell.
Semicolon tattoos have become a permanent reminder for those who struggle with self-harm, mental illness, and suicide. MTV refers to the semicolon tattoos as an “external reminder of an internal triumph.” The semicolon tattoo has become a significant sign of solidarity. The unspoken words of the tattoos let others know they are not alone.
The semicolon tattoos are linking people; people who still have a story to tell and a sentence to finish. For some people, the tattoo is a symbol that represents overcoming obstacles. The semicolon is also a personal reminder that they are able to continue onward. There have been a number of different semicolon tattoos designed; all bringing the stigma of mental illness to light. The tattoos have also openly started conversations about mental illness.
There are an overwhelming number of people who are getting the semicolon tattoo in different forms. This has created the concern, by some, that the meaning of the tattoo will lose its significance. A tattoo has meaning to the one who wears it and no one else. The tattoos also have a different meaning to different people.
A tattoo artist in South Wales, Lee Lewis, the owner of Ink Addiktion, is using the profits he receives from the semicolon tattoos he inks to assist two families that have been affected by suicide, as well as two mental health charities. Lewis has raised $635.87. On August 9, Lewis will be exclusively inking semicolon tattoos to increase his fundraising efforts.
Lewis felt compelled to help the mission of Project Semicolon after the death of Dylan Jones and Sean Jones. Dylan Jones was a soldier dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder. He committed suicide, leaving eight-year-old twins behind. Sean Jones stepped in front of a train at 27 years old, leaving behind a 10-month-old baby.
Lewis wants to purchase a garden item in memory of each father. The rest of the money raised will go to Pobl and Change Step. Pobl is a mental health charity and Change Step reaches out to help former military personnel.
The mother of Dylan Jones’ twins, has shown her support for both the cause and the father of her twins by getting a semicolon tattoo from Lee. She said that once Dylan finally decided to get help, it was too late. Project Semicolon is reaching out because the sentence is not finished yet.
“I’m not afraid to take a stand. Everybody come take my hand. We’ll walk this road together, through the storm whatever weather, cold or warm. Just to let you know that, you’re not alone. Holla if you feel like you’ve been down the same road,” as Eminem said in his song, Not Afraid. This is a sentiment which seems to echo that of Project Semicolon.
By Jeanette Smith
Project Semicolon: ‘About’
MTV News: ‘Here’s The Heartwarming Reason People Are Getting Semicolon Tattoos’
Huffington Post: ‘Project Semicolon: More Than Just a Tattoo’
South Wales Evening Post: ‘Swansea Tattoo Artist Joins Project Semicolon Plight in Support for Local Mental Health Charities
Eminem: ‘Not Afraid’
Top Photo and Featured Image Courtesy of Kate Elizabeth’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Second Photo Courtesy of Kat Selvocki’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License