This Woman Got A Tattoo To Honour Her Late Father And Started A Global Movement
Project Semicolon aims to encourage and support those struggling with depression, suicide, addiction, and self-harm.
Thousands of people are drawing semicolons on their bodies, either permanently as tattoos or with Sharpies, and posting pictures of their inkings online.
But it's not a Tumblr fad – these tattoos are actually part of a bigger movement: #ProjectSemicolon.
Project Semicolon is dedicated to supporting those who struggle with depression, suicide, addiction, and self-harm. It aims to break down the stigma attached to mental health issues.
The movement's site says: "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."
The project began in 2013 when founder Amy Bleuel got her semicolon tattoo as a tribute to her father, who killed himself.
Project Semicolon has gained a big following on social media.
"From the start the project was a huge success," Bleuel said. "It is credited to a good friend of mine who wishes to not be named. He is a genius when it comes to networking. In the recent weeks the feeling of: 'Wow we are on to something' really started to hit me. To have so many countries involved and supporting is amazing. It is a humbling experience."
BuzzFeed News also spoke to Alex Bieger, one of many people with a semicolon tattoo.
We asked Bieger why the symbol means so much to him.
"I am a recovering addict, and before I got clean I wanted to die every day," he said. "I was that deep into misery and despair. It's a reminder for me that I made the choice to fight for my life instead of giving up."
Heather Parrie also has a semicolon tattoo.
Parrie has written an inspiring blog post about why she got the tattoo, why she's involved in Project Semicolon, and what it's like for her to struggle with depression and anxiety. "When I wrote my blog post, I expected the same 60-100 people who read all of my social media postings to interact with me about it," Parrie told BuzzFeed News. Her post now has over 7 million views. "Knowing that I've gotten to be a part of something bigger than myself is so motivating to keep working to make the world a better place."
When we asked her about her tattoo's meaning, she said:
"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 have criticised Project Semicolon due to the religious aspects of the non-profit group. The project recently responded by sharing the following post on its Facebook page:
Bleuel told BuzzFeed News:
"The main reason I chose to present the project as faith-based is to display the love of Christ through the project. That very love brought me and many of the people who work with me on the project continuance in their own stories. To me a Christ-like love is [the] most purest form of love. That is how I strive to love the world. By no means does the project exclude other religions. All are welcome."
People sporting the tattoo agree that you don't have to be religious to support the project.
"No, I am not religious," Bieger told us, "and I don't think being religious is a requirement for participating in the project. I have faith and am very spiritual but not religious."