The real meaning of a semicolon tattoo

For many, their tattoos are incredibly meaningful and special. Maybe the peony on their wrist reminds them of their mom, or the three stars on their ankle is an homage to their love for Harry Potter, or maybe it was just a spur of the moment decision that they thought would be fun. One tattoo, though, comes with an inspiring and sobering message: the semicolon. 

The people you see walking around with semicolons tattoos are survivors. They struggle with an invisible disease on a daily basis, have experienced heartbreaking tragedy, have struggled with or experienced suicide. Or, they are those who stand with those people. 

In 2013, Amy Bleuel founded Project Semicolon, a non-profit organization dedicated to raising mental health awareness and erasing the stigma associated with suicide. Since then, survivors have been tattooing the punctuation mark on their bodies to represent the organization's message: Your story isn't over yet. The symbol is a powerful metaphor for survivors who battle mental illnesses and choose to live another day, because it's used by authors when a sentence continues, even though it could have ended.

The semicolon tattoo reminds people that they are enough

People with semicolon tattoos often find sharing their stories to be empowering — and hopefully encouraging — to others. On Instagram, #ProjectSemiColon and #SemiColonTattoo have tens of thousands of uploads each, with each post expressing the global movement's message. 

One person wrote that their tattoo was a "tangible reminder that [he] survived and [he is] enough." Another said that she's been "at war with [herself] for so many years" but "[her] story isn't even close to over." These sentiments are the same for many others, proving just how powerful the symbol is. 

Season 2 of 13 Reasons Why shined a spotlight on the semicolon when, as reported by Thrillist, the series' protagonist, Clay, was shown getting the punctuation mark tattooed on his wrist to honor his friend Hannah, who died by suicide in season 1. The project's message is so important to the series that Selena Gomez, an executive producer, along with stars Alisha Boe and Tommy Dorfman, each got the tattoo in 2017. In a post documenting the occasion, Dorfman echoed the message so many others have shared, saying that for the trio "it means a beginning of another chapter in life."

In founding Project Semicolon and sharing her story, Bleuel hoped people suffering would know they "are loved" and "worth saving." While she lost her personal battle with mental illness in 2017, it's clear her message has resonated with many.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).