The semicolon is a popular tattoo design often seen inked on the wrist. Getting the punctuation mark tattooed on your skin is more than just a trend; it’s a gesture that carries a lot of meaning concerning mental health awareness.
In grammar, the semicolon is used to combine two complete sentences that are closely related, while a period is used to separate two sentences that are saying completely different things.
So when you use a semicolon, it means that the thought isn’t quite over yet, even if the sentence is.
That sentiment is the concept behind Project Semicolon, a non-profit “dedicated to presenting hope & love to those who struggle with mental illness, suicide, addiction & self-injury.”
The movement began with Amy Bleuel in 2013 to inspire those suffering from mental illness, suicidal thoughts, or self-harm to share their story and let them know that they’re not alone.
“Through the pain came inspiration and a deeper love for others. God wants us to love one another despite the label we wear. I do pray my story inspires others. Please remember there is hope for a better tomorrow.” – Amy Bruel
It started as a social media movement that encouraged people to draw a semicolon on their wrist in solidarity, snap a photo, and post it online to share with others.
Amy’s own experiences led her to create Project Semicolon. After her father died by suicide in 2003, Amy battled against mental illness herself.
10 years later, she founded the non-profit to honor her father’s legacy and share her own story with the rest of the world.
“I wanted to tell my story to inspire others to tell their story,” she told USA Today. “I wanted to start a conversation that can’t be stopped, a conversation about mental illness and suicide so we can address it and lower those rates.”
Sadly, Amy lost her life to suicide in 2017 after a lifelong battle with depression, but her legacy lives on through Project Semicolon.
The movement has evolved from images of drawings on arms to those of full-on tattoos throughout the years. Instead of being a symbol of solidarity, the semicolon tattoo has evolved into a permanent reminder of how far you’ve come so you can keep going.
Seeing the mark can also bring you hope for the future and remind you that there is more to come in life, no matter what you’re going through.
“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,” said a statement on Project Semicolon’s website.
Those who get the semicolon tattoo usually do so to honor someone—a relative, friend, or yourself—or to raise awareness about mental illness, suicide, addiction, and self-injury.
But it’s more than just a visual representation; having the tattoo is often a conversation starter, which means you can help raise awareness of the movement by talking about it.
The Project Semicolon tattoo was originally placed on the wrist, but you can place it virtually anywhere. Because of its flexibility as a tattoo design, the semicolon has become a popular tattoo choice.
Many people have gotten a personalized design of the punctuation mark to make it even more meaningful. For example, some folks have combined hearts, crosses, infinity signs, heartbeat lines, rainbows, flowers, and musical notes to their semicolon tattoos.
Celebrities who have the semicolon tattoo include Selena Gomez, as well as Alisha Boe, Tommy Dorfman, and Brandon Flynn—stars of the Netflix series “13 Reasons Why.”
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If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts, you may reach The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by dialing 1-800-273-8255 to get free and confidential support 24 hours a day.