Updated: Apr 1
Every year, on April 16th, we celebrate World Semicolon Day. The purpose of this day is to pay tribute to those who have attempted or thought of suicide, and to share their stories with the world in attempt to raise awareness for mental illness and suicide prevention. By sharing our stories, trials, tattoos, and/ or advocacy, we remind those struggling with mental illness: You are not alone. Your story isn't over!
Project Semicolon, an online mental health movement, was founded by Amy Bleuel as a tribute to her father who died by suicide. The Project Semicolon website is a credible source for those that want more information on mental health, to share their own stories and battles with mental illness, and to donate to their cause to help more people.
The reason why the symbol of this campaign is a semicolon is because punctuation is extremely powerful. Project Semicolon explains that “[a] semicolon is used when an author could’ve ended their sentence but chose not to. The author is you and the sentence is your life.”
Millions of people worldwide have joined a powerful movement and gotten semicolon tattoos to pay tribute to themselves, their friends, their family members, and others, and to tell others that their story isn’t over yet. Since its beginning in 2013, Project Semicolon has gained worldwide attention and support, with the semicolon tattoo spreading in solidarity.
If you follow my social impact initiatives and my involvement in the Miss America Organization, you probably know that I am a passionate advocate for the destigmatization of mental illness and for mental health resource implementation. I personally have and still struggle with mental illness, and it is something that impacts me in some way every single day. It has been difficult. There have been awful days. But it has made me stronger, and it has revealed a prodigious passion of mine: igniting others' lights!
While y'all know all about my mental health advocacy and my personal struggles, most of you do not know that I also have a tattoo to pay tribute to suicide and mental health awareness. This is not something I have ever shared publicly (until now), but I felt as though today was an opportunity to connect to those who may be struggling on a more personal level.
Obviously, the semicolon represents everything that Project Semicolon stands for, but the arrow symbolizes something else. Last year, when I was really starting to focus inward on my own mental health and figure out what was going on personally, somebody very close to me gave me a gift and said something that stuck with my heart.
I opened a small box to find an arrow necklace attached to a card that read:
"Every positive thought points you in the right direction"
As simple as that sentence may seem, I was just starting to figure out my own mental health. I was constantly struggling with putting myself down, and the little things each day often seemed difficult. But this is something I started to tell myself every single day, and the arrow became a symbol for me to focus on the positives of each moment.
Earlier this year, I saw this arrow + semicolon graphic online, and I immediately wanted to be able to pay a permanent tribute not only to where I have been, personally, but also to the millions of individuals across the globe who struggle with mental illness on a daily basis, who find it difficult to get out of bed every day, and who do have to fight to move in the right direction.
Like I said, I have never shared my tattoo publicly until now, but I really felt the need to be transparent with everyone about my struggles, my full testimony, and how I actively engage in mental health advocacy. I want to constantly remind those struggling that your life matters.
It's not just a semicolon; it's hope, it's inspiration, it's who we are.