- A semicolon tattoo is an affirmation of life and a message of solidarity in the war against suicide, addiction, and depression.
- In grammar, a semicolon signifies a pause before a sentence continues.
- Project Semicolon is a nonprofit organization designed to support individuals struggling with mental illness or suicidal tendencies.
- Creative semicolon designs transform the symbol into cats, dragonflies, and other unique artwork.
Tattoos can be immensely personal, representing milestones and achievements as well as beloved people and pets. Few tattoos, however, are quite as personal as the semicolon.
This inked punctuation mark has come to stand for something that is at once, powerful and intimate. It’s both an affirmation of life and a message of solidarity in the war against suicide, addiction, and depression.
If you’ve seen one on someone, you may wonder: What does a semicolon tattoo mean? Please keep reading to learn more about this socially significant symbol, its history, and how it helps to erase stigmas surrounding mental health issues.
What Does it Mean to Have a Semicolon Tattoo on Your Wrist?
In writing, a semicolon is a common punctuation mark that signals a pause rather than the end of a sentence. In recent years, it’s also become one of the most popular—and powerful—tattoos in the nation. A semicolon inked on someone’s wrist symbolizes hope in the face of depression, addiction, or mental illness. It lets people know that life, like a sentence, can go on. It also honors lives that could have ended but didn’t.
A Brief History of the Semicolon Tattoo
In 2013, Amy Bleuel transformed the semicolon from a simple punctuation mark into a meaningful social and cultural symbol. Bleuel wanted to honor her father’s passing, having lost him to suicide. To do so, she searched for a symbol that could represent hope in the face of depression, addiction, suicide, and other mental health issues. The ideal symbol, Bleuel realized, was the humble semicolon.
Bleuel founded Project Semicolon, a nonprofit organization designed to raise awareness of mental health issues and support individuals struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts. Its slogan—Your story isn’t over—is embodied by the semicolon.
The Semicolon as a Symbol of Hope
What Bleuel saw in the semicolon is no mystery. Unlike a period, it’s a mark that doesn’t end a sentence. Instead, it alerts a reader that the sentence will continue.
Bleuel believed the semicolon was a perfect metaphor for surviving. In literature, it represents the continuation of a sentence rather than an ending. In life, it symbolizes an individual’s choice to keep going. Ultimately, Bleuel saw the semicolon as representing the continuation of life.
One of Project Semicolon‘s main goals was and is to raise awareness about suicide and suicide prevention. That’s how the semicolon tattoo was born.
Individuals affiliated with Project Semicolon and suicide survivors or individuals struggling with mental health issues began to tattoo semicolons on their bodies. Although the wrist is a popular choice for the tattoo, it may also appear elsewhere on the body. Common places for the tattoo include an ankle, shoulder, or behind an ear. The idea is to have it inked where it’s visible so that it can start a conversation.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP
The tattoo is meant to remind these inked individuals that their stories aren’t over. It also encourages them to share their tales. The hope is to create a sense of pride and community that can erase the stigma commonly associated with suicide and mental illness.
A Symbol of Empowerment
These days, thousands of individuals around the world proudly sport semicolon tattoos. These tattoos are starting conversations about once-taboo topics and are letting people know that they aren’t alone. Through its message, Project Semicolon and its followers have encouraged and empowered those living with depression and suicidal thoughts.
Sadly, at the age of 31, Bleuel lost her own lifelong battle with depression. Her legacy lives on through her organization.
Semicolon Transformation: Variations on a Theme
To create unique semicolon-inspired designs, many tattoo artists are incorporating semicolons into other images. One famous example is the cat. It can be created by replacing the top portion (the dot) of the semicolon with a cat’s head, while the curved portion forms a tail. Another popular option is replacing the top dot of the semicolon with a heart.
Other Symbols of Hope
Other people opt to combine the semicolon with other symbols of hope and survival to create additional meaning. One unique design shows the dot of the semicolon dissolving into birds flying away. In many cultures, birds represent freedom, making this a potent and beautiful symbol of the potential for moving on.
Other common symbols that are often combined with semicolon tattoos include:
- Infinity signs
- Heartbeat lines
- Musical notes
These images may represent a person’s interests or symbolize the things that have helped them through difficult times. Objects such as hearts may also represent support for friends or family living with depression.
Should I get a Semicolon Tattoo?
Whether you want to tell your own story or support someone else in their struggle, you might be considering a semicolon tattoo. Ultimately, getting a tattoo is a personal choice. However, here are a few things that you need to consider before getting a semicolon tattoo:
- If you want to support the cause but don’t want a permanent tattoo, consider drawing a semicolon somewhere on your body instead. It’s a temporary but effective way to deliver the same message.
- If you’re under 18, you’ll need a parent or guardian’s permission to get the tattoo.
- A semicolon tattoo symbolizes your battle with depression, suicide, or mental health illness. People might ask, so make sure you’re ready to share your story.
Because it’s not the Final Word: A Note To Those who may be Struggling
If you or someone you know are struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts, help is available. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline offers free, confidential support to anyone in need. You can reach the hotline 24 hours a day by dialing 1-800-273-8255. If you need help finding treatment for addiction, you can call SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP.
Your life is worth it.