These tattoos have an inspiring message about mental illness
Even though I don’t have any tattoos (at least, not yet), I find them fascinating. As someone who can change her mind nine times before the waiter comes back with the drinks to take the dinner order, it seems I might be inherently too indecisive to permanently etch something onto my body. But it doesn’t mean I can’t pretend to ponder different designs online and ooh and ahh over my friends’ new ink. Which led me to discovering the Semicolon Project.
For a while now I had been seeing semicolon tattoos popping up in my social media feed. Mostly of people holding out their arms and their wrists emblazoned with this punctuation mark. I finally started investigating. I followed the #semicolonproject and #semicolonproject416 hashtags which brought me to the project’s website and I learned that there was a meaning behind these tattoos that was a lot more profound than just celebrating punctuation: the Semicolon Project is movement to help eradicate stigma associated with mental illness, and particularly depression and anxiety. The semicolon represents a sentence the author could have ended but chose not to. As the website elucidates, “that author is you and the sentence is your life.”
The project began in 2013 when several people uploaded photos of drawn semicolons on their wrists in support for those suffering from mental health issues. It calls for anyone who has experienced suicidal tendencies, depression, heartbreak, anxiety or self harmed to tattoo a semicolon on their wrist in solidarity. And at my last check, there were over 300,000 Instagram posts with pictures of the tattoo on a variety of wrists. There was even a post where someone uploaded a photo of their parents each sporting the tattoo in support.
In my mid twenties I spent time seeing a therapist for my depression and hiding that fact from both my friends and family. I was afraid of being seen as weak or worse crazy. I know now that not only are there many people who experience the exact same troubling emotions, but there’s just as many people afraid that no one can relate. The stigma against mental illness is so severe that it often prevents people from seeking help, and that needs to stop.
Non-profits like the Semicolon Project that have their ideas going viral is a huge stride in kicking down the stigma that circulates around mental health. Even if you’re not ready to commit to a tattoo yet, speaking up about your own experience with mental illness is a real help. One thing I’m not indecisive about is wholeheartedly believing in a key part of the mission statement of The Semicolon Project: “Your story isn’t over yet.” That might be reason enough to finally get some ink of my own.
[Image via the Semicolon project]