Semicolon Becomes a Symbol of Hope

A growing movement is using the semicolon, and in particular a semicolon tattoo, as a symbol of hope for people with mental illness. The Project Semicolon website describes the meaning behind the symbol:

A semicolon represents a sentence the author could have ended, but chose not to. The sentence is your life and the author is you.”

It represents a choice to live on especially for those who may have considered ending their lives.

The project has inspired many people to tattoo or draw the symbol in creative ways to symbolize their own struggles or to honor or support loved ones who have struggled. The project encourages people to use social media to promote the message and continue the conversation, sharing pictures and stories of hope and strength to help end the stigma of mental illness and encourage those who are struggling feel safe and comfortable enough to reach out for help.

The movement has motivated many to share images of their tattoos and positive messages, such as:

  • You Matter.
  • Something will grow from all you are going through and it will be you.
  • So far you’ve survived 100% of your worst days. You’re doing great.
  • You are not alone and your story does not end here!
  • It’s okay to feel sad, anxious, afraid. Take a breath, refocus, reach out, but keep going.

Project Semicolon was founded Amy Bleuel, a Green Bay, Wisc., artist. She lost her father to suicide and initiated the project as a way to honor her father. “I wanted to tell my story to inspire others to tell their story. I wanted to start a conversation that can’t be stopped, a conversation about mental illness and suicide so we can address it,” Bleuel told USA TODAY Network in a recent interview.

While this initiative is one of many aimed at raising awareness, fostering hope and fighting the stigma of mental illness, its simple and powerful message and symbol seem to be resonating with many. The project’s Facebook page has more than 100,000 likes and it has nearly 20,000 followers on Instagram.

In 2014, 9.4 million adults aged 18 or older reported they had thought seriously about trying to kill themselves at any time during the past 12 months and more than one million attempted suicide, according to new data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

A new resource is available to help people who have attempted suicide take their first steps toward healing and recovery. A Journey Toward Health and Hope: Your Handbook for Recovery after a Suicide Attempt was developed by SAMHSA and features firsthand experiences of individuals who have survived a suicide attempt and their supporters.

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