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Project Semicolon

by Shaina Blakesley

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“The strongest people aren’t always the people who win, but the people who don’t give up when they lose,” wrote Project Semicolon via Twitter.

Many people have been seen sporting semicolon tattoos, but most may not truly understand what it means.

Amy Bleuel, founder of Project Semicolon, chose the semicolon symbol after her father committed suicide when she was 18 years old. The meaning behind it stems from literature — when an author could have ended a sentence with a period, but chose to use a semicolon to continue on. In the analogy, you are the author and your life is the sentence.

The World of Health Organization states that approximately 800,000 people die by suicide each year, and 28 countries have a national strategy for suicide prevention. This demonstrates the importance of banding together to fight this catastrophe.

Local communities need to make a safer place for those drowning in turmoil.

Bleuel coined the phrase, “Your story is not over.” Bleuel shared her own story of battling depression, abuse, rape and thoughts of suicide in 2013. Her story transformed into a movement which initially began with people posting pictures of semicolons drawn on various parts of their bodies.

Eventually, the drawings turned into tattoos. The tattoos are meant to be conversation starters, which instigate those difficult conversations. They are markers that the wearers have either endured the struggles of suicide or are willing to help those in need.

I got my semicolon tattoo in 2015, after many heart-puncturing years — years of abuse, in every perversion of the word, self-harm and pain pill addiction. I have been so low, the rats do not even want to live there. The hardest part was trying to express myself to those around me. I wanted to shout from the rooftops, “Hey, I am not okay,” but at the same time I wanted to crawl into the smallest hole possible and never come out.

I saw someone with a semicolon tattoo prior to getting mine. I mustered up all my courage to ask her about it. She told me the story, and I wanted to cry.

I was not alone in my pain; hers was different and so may be yours, but the feeling of knowing someone understands, and is willingly there to listen to you, is comforting.

The biggest goal of Project Semicolon is to be a shoulder for those contemplating suicide. Whether it is due to depression, mental illness, incest, rape, bullying, addiction, rejection or anything else.

Project Semicolon is aimed at starting the conversations for healing, creating awareness to the stigma and providing motivation to keep on going.

I was honored to get my tattoo by my boyfriend, who wonderfully will become my husband in a few months. He has his own story, dealing with families who are afflicted with mental illness.

His mother was diagnosed with schizophrenia when he was seven years old and his baby sister was four years old. I am very fond of my mother-in-law, but I can see the stigma associated with mental illness, especially schizophrenia. People look at those with mental illnesses differently, like in some ways, it makes them less of a person.

Everyone is human. We are all the same, but in our own unique way.

People with borderline personality disorder or severe anxiety or depression or someone who is gender neutral are all human.

These people live lives just like anyone deemed societally sane, but who determines what is sane or insane in the first place?

There is no right or wrong way to be alive; just being alive is the most important part.

There are always resources for help, especially on campus. There is the Victim Advocacy Office, the LGBTQ group or even a trusted professor.

If you want to take a step back from school, Project Semicolon has hotlines, resources, information and most importantly, open arms to cradle you when you are struggling.