Suicide was the beginning of Project Semicolon. The founder’s father took his life, and 10 years later, the project was born. Project Semicolon started a dialogue and then reached epic proportions. The founder, Amy Bieuel, was surprised by the publicity the project gained.
When the foundation was founded in 2013, Bieuel wanted to honor her father, so she got a tattoo. The tattoo reads, “Love Endlessly; purpose for this pain.” The story behind the symbol is that the writer could have ended the sentence but chose not to. It is a symbolism many have taken to heart. One tweeter sent a photo of the tattoo she put on her back with the message, “You are the author, and your life is the sentence-don’t let your sentence end.”
Bieuel serves as a board member of the Brown County Coalition for Suicide Prevention, and she converses with thousands of people online. She also accepts speaking engagements. On Project Semicolon’s website, there are testimonies from suicide survivors, others who live with self-destructive behaviors, and people suffering from other mental health issues. These testimonials are found in the blog section of the site.
About a year ago, Bieuel wrote a post entitled, “Why Me God? Why My Testimony? A Story of Hope in the Midst of Despair.” She writes about her bouts of depression, self-destruction, and feelings of overwhelming self-loathing. She thanks her husband for being a stabilizing force in her life. When they met and married, she began to see her calling, and the project began. Additionally, she talks about her relationship with her “Savior.” Her relationship has empowered her to “make a difference and to love the world with a Christ-like love.”
Project Semicolon is a “faith-based non-profit movement.” However, as the founder points out on the website, there is no exclusion of people who follow a different path to their spirituality. The program intends to offer support, not to preach. When the project began, it was a personal journey for Bieuel, but as time passed, it became evident that there was a greater need than expected. Project Semicolon started a dialogue and then reached epic proportions due to her willingness to head the project. In Michigan, the Press-Gazette Media (in Michigan) wrote an article about the movement, and the title says, “Green Bay woman’s Semicolon Project goes viral.”
In Winnipeg, Canada, a mom, and a tattoo parlor are teaming up to encourage people who suffer from depression to get a semicolon tattoo. The mom, Della Steinke, suffered from depression after her son was in an auto accident. Steinke says she was lucky her depression was not long-lasting. However, after the experience, she decided to offer hope for others who suffer from depression. From July 22 to 24, the Dead Man’s Hands Tattoo Shop offers the semicolon tattoo for $60.00. “A portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Mental Health Association Foundation,” according to a statement.
Huffington Post’s Stronger Together featured a blogger who writes why she is not getting a tattoo; yet. Her idea is to put a semicolon on her wrist daily with a black marker. Toni Hammer says doing this serves as a daily reminder. She explains, “I’m reminding myself that no matter how bad my anxiety gets that day, no matter how large the dark cloud of depression looms…I am choosing to continue my story.”
There is an education section on the Semicolon Project website where a reader will find information about mental health illnesses. The topics include suicide, anxiety, drug addiction, depression, self-injury, and eating disorders. There are lists of symptoms and links for obtaining more information and how to help a loved one or oneself.
The result of Bieuel’s loss prompted her to begin the website where Project Semicolon started a dialogue and then reached epic proportions as people are enabled to open dialogues about suicide and mental illness. The site has a disclaimer stating, “Project Semicolon is not a 24-hour hotline, nor are we trained, mental health professionals.” For that type of assistance, there is the National Suicide Prevention Helpline, which is open 24 hours a day, every day; 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433).
By Cathy Milne-Ware
PROJECT SEMICOLON: YOUR STORY ISN’T OVER YET
CBC News Manitoba: Project Semicolon asks Winnipeggers affected by depression to get inked
HUFF POST STRONGER TOGETHER: Why I’m Not Joining The Semicolon Movement Yet
Press-Gazette Media: Green Bay woman’s Project Semicolon Project goes viral
USA TODAY NETWORK: Semicolon tattoos raise awareness about mental illness
Featured Photo Courtesy of epSos .de’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Photo Courtesy of sriram bala’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License