It started in 2013 with Amy Bleuel, a Wisconsin resident with a history of self-injury, addiction, and attempted suicide. Bleuel had struggled with mental health problems for years. When her father committed suicide, she decided to pay tribute to him—and perhaps to her own enduring strength—with a simple tattoo of a semicolon on her wrist.
“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.”
Bleuel realized quickly the power behind this symbol, and she hoped to share it with others who needed such an anchor: a reminder of a wider, global community of people suffering, and surviving, their illnesses, day after day.
“Project Semicolon” caught like wildfire. Now thousands of people are getting semicolon tattoos—some permanent, some temporary—and posting pictures online in solidarity.
Some users are adding flourishes to the base design—a bit of their own personal flair—turning the colon into one part of a larger image, or adding text. It's a community, but one that embraces personal touch, and individual stories.
The sharing of these photos offers a platform for so many necessary things: a chance for people to tell their unique stories, to reach out for help or to help, to declare themselves and their pride in their endurance, and to remind themselves that they are never alone.
“Originally, the tattoo was so representative of my own internal struggle, and felt intensely personal to my experience. Now that over seven million people have read my story, the tattoo still feels intensely personal, but every time I look at it I’m reminded of how many other people are struggling in the same way and how many people are on my side. Depression has a way of convincing you to believe you’re the only one who has ever felt this way before in the world, but my tattoo reminds me daily that, above all, depression is a liar.”
Some people have criticized or else recoiled from the Project as a result of its forthright religiosity—it calls itself a “faith-based” non-profit movement. But Bleuel insists that all faiths (or the lack thereof) are welcome.
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