If you’ve seen photos of semicolon-inked wrists popping up in your social media feed, be encouraged; they may just be keeping someone alive.
Semicolons, drawn in ink or tattooed on the body, have become a symbol of life and hope in the face of life’s black clouds.
The concept originates from Project Semicolon, a faith-based organisation that works to bring hope and love to people battling depression, other mental illnesses, addictions, self-harm or suicidal thoughts.
Founded in 2013 in Wisconson, USA, Project Semicolon has reached 1.5 million people in 75 countries within its first two years.
So What’s The Meaning Of The Semicolon?
Project Semicolon was founded by Amy Bleuel, a 30-year-old woman from Wisconsin, USA, who lost her father to suicide in 2003 when she was just 18.
Amy was dealt many tough blows herself while growing up, including abuse, rape, mental health issues and suicidal thoughts. She decided to honour her father’s memory by getting a tattoo.
The slogan on her left forearm reads: “Love endlessly; purpose for the pain.”
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On the Project Semicolon website, Amy describes her reason for using the punctuation mark as her symbol: “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.”
She adds that the title “Project Semicolon,” represents the belief that “this is not the end but a new beginning”.
Inspiring Others To Continue Their Journey
When Amy decided in 2013 that she wanted to spread hope to others with this message, the movement spread rapidly.
Since then people the world over have been following her lead by drawing semicolons on their wrists, ankles, necks and arms, in texta or as a tattoo. Some cover up scars where young women have self-harmed.
Many are combined with colours, symbols like hearts and butterflies, and words such as “my story isn’t over”, “don’t end your sentence”, “stay strong” and “live”.
The photos are then posted to social media with the hashtag #semicolon416. The 416 stands for the date, April 16, when supporters draw a semicolon on their wrist in solidarity.
The Project Semicolon Vision
The organisation’s vision is to help people see the value in their story, to see suicide is a non-option, to take steps towards recovery, and to be brave enough to start a conversation.
They also aim to raise the profile of mental illness, suicide, addiction and self-injury so that the issues are not sidelined and ignored.
“I want the world to see that despite the pain there was a purpose,” she said at a summit in 2014.
“I’m very fortunate to be alive. I hoped my father would be the last suicide this world would ever see but that wasn’t the case, so I dedicated my life to helping other people continue their story.”
And it seems her dedication is paying off; Project Semicolon has had feedback people the world over who’ve been encouraged by the movement.
They include teens battling addictions and self-harm issues, adults going through divorce, and parents who are supporting a child with mental issues.
The organisation creates media such as the “microfilm” below, which depicts a young woman considering self-harming after being cyber-bullied.
Communicating hope: ‘Done’, a film about self-harm by Project Semicolon.
Christian Love Is Their Guiding Principle
The Project Semicolon website says Christian faith was a common element in the strength of the organisation’s founders, who had all struggled with their own challenges.
“When the foundation of this project was created those involved reflected on what got them to where they are today,” Amy said.
“The answer was clear that it was the love of Christ.
“It is the love of my Savior that empowered me to make a difference and to love the world with a Christ-like love, even when the world hadn’t loved me.
“As we set forth in the project, we committed to loving with a Christ-like love those who are struggling.
“This by no means excludes any other beliefs or religions, as we accept them all… we are all in this together.”
“Without His love and grace I know that my story would never have been told. I hope that you all know that you are loved and that you are worth saving. My story isn’t over yet, neither is yours.”
On her bio page Amy adds that meeting her husband was also major turning point in her life that led to great healing.
The Link Between Depression And Suicide
According to Amy, around 20 million people struggle with depression, and the untreated cases are the leading cause of the 800,000 suicide deaths each year.
And two out of three people who struggle with depression never get help for it.
At her talks, Amy encourages people to take simple steps to make other peoples’ lives better.
“If you see somebody lonely…reach out, say hello, smile, tell them they look nice today, compliment them on something,” she said.
“It will change their world.”
If you or someone you know is in a crisis situation and needs immediate help, call Lifeline’s 24-hour support line on 13 11 14.