If you’re on any form of social media, or just on the Internet at all, chances are you’ve probably seen a picture of someone with a tattoo of a semicolon. Big ones, small ones, colourful ones and simple ones – they’re popping up everywhere! But what is the idea behind this seemingly new fad and why would I, as an artist that creates work around the subject of mental health, be interested in this? Well it turns out that the semicolon isn’t just a meaningless tattoo people are getting because it’s become a popular symbol, in fact people are getting this tattoo, or simply drawing it on their skin inspired by an online movement aptly named ‘project semicolon’. This movement is changing the way we look at a seemingly insignificant piece of punctuation, transforming the semicolon into a symbol of hope and power.
It begins with a metaphor in which you think of your life as a sentence. Imagine that you are writing this sentence but that words begin to frighten and terrify you. You feel completely weighed down, unable to continue with your story, and you decide it might be time to end this sentence as it’s become too hard for you to bear. However, instead of putting a full stop, you decide to put a semicolon – a semicolon is a piece of punctuation that is used by an author when you could have chosen to end that sentence, but didn’t. You decided to continue, to find strength and carry on in a time of despair. It is through this metaphor that the semicolon has become a symbol for finding strength, for being incredibly brave and carrying on when times are very tough.
The semicolon is used to portray your life, with you as the author of your story. And the real reason people are getting semicolons drawn on their wrists, or in some cases even tattooing them on their bodies is as a reminder that they’ve carried on going despite being close to ending their life, something that could be due to mental illnesses such as depression, OCD or due to addiction or self-harm. It serves as a reminder of how brave people have been during their battles with mental illness.
The social media movement ‘Project semicolon’ actually started back in 2013, created by founder Amy Bleuel who used the semicolon as a way of remembering and honouring her late father who was sadly taken from the world due to suicide (project semicolon, 2015). The semicolon quickly became a symbol to represent the battle with depression that many face and people began drawing it on their wrists and posting pictures to social media. It is much more recently that the ‘semicolon tattoo project’, not to be confused with the original project, saw people taking a more permanent approach and actually getting the semicolon tattooed to serve as a constant reminder to keep going. (Willard, 2015)
As a long-term sufferer of depression, anxiety and mental illness, this movement has really grabbed my attention. As you may have read, my personal aim within my practice is to challenge the stigma that surrounds mental illness, creating a dialogue about illnesses such as depression and OCD, and hopefully creating awareness, and so anything that helps to do this is definitely a good thing in my books! I really hope the semicolon can continue to be a symbol of hope and will remind sufferers that things can get better, as well as symbolising to themselves how brave they've been during their battles.
Apologies if any of the information is wrong, please do contact me if so and I will be happy to rectify it. If you would like to find out more about the incredible project semicolon, please do visit the following sites: http://www.projectsemicolon.com/ https://www.facebook.com/semicolontattoo
Project semicolon. (2015) Our History [online] At: http://www.projectsemicolon.com/our-history.html (Accessed: 14.07.2015)
Willard, Laura. (2015) Have you seen anyone with a semicolon tattoo? Here’s what it’s about. [online] At: http://www.upworthy.com/have-you-seen-anyone-with-a-semicolon-tattoo-heres-what-its-about (Accessed: 14.07.2015)