9 beautiful semicolon tattoos our readers shared to destigmatize mental health challenges

Beautiful and meaningful.

If you've been online this week, you've probably seen something about the semicolon tattoo.

But in case you haven't, here's the short version: It's a tattoo that represents mental health struggles and the importance of suicide prevention.

I wrote an article about it earlier this week. When we posted it on Facebook, our readers shared inspiring messages, stories, and words of encouragement for one another, and many also posted pictures of their own semicolon tattoos.


I was blown away by the responses and reached out to several of the people who posted their own photos.

They were happy to share their tattoos and stories. I was touched by what they told me, and I hope you also find encouragement, hope, and inspiration in their words. Here are their stories.

1. A mom and her daughters, fighting together.

Denise and her daughters, Tayler and Olivia, got their semicolon tattoos right before they participated in the "Out of the Darkness" walk for suicide.

"My oldest daughter's first boyfriend died by suicide two years ago," Denise said. "Additionally, both of my girls have major depressive disorders and have struggled with ideation of suicide and self-harm."

"We treat their depression like any other disease, and are hopeful our tattoos will help counter the social stigma associated with mental illness and depression."

2. It's not a trend — it's a permanent reminder to keep going.

After being diagnosed with depression in 2005, Natalie LeFaivre got her semicolon tattoo in 2014 "as a reminder to me every day that with every step I take, my story isn't over."

"People ask all the time what it means," she said. "I used to be embarrassed about what I have gone through, but now if I can help out just one person, it's worth it."

"People may think it is dumb or just a trend but to those of us who have gone through depression or other things, it means so much more," she said. "And it is a permanent reminder to ourselves to continue to love who we are and to keep going."

3. She's never alone or unloved.

"I have suffered from depression since I was a teenager and now have a daughter suffering from depression and bipolar," Desirea said after sharing her butterfly semicolon tattoo. "My best friend and I got the tattoos to provide a visual reminder of never being alone or unloved."

4. It's not just a tattoo — it's protection from herself.

Kasey Tourangeau said, "I got [my tattoos] as a reminder that life is for living. They help me to cope and remember that there is more than the hurt you're feeling in the moment. They protect me from me."

"I have (and still am) going through rough times. I suffered in silence from self harm, because I didn't know who to turn to or what to say. Too many times I have wanted to end my life and through reading stories about these foundations, I found my light."

"'Love' on my wrist has come from the TWOLHA foundation. It told me to love myself, even when I didn't think there was anything to love. The semicolon came as a reminder: when things get bad, just take a pause and continue living. The butterfly around it not only represented life, but also the 'butterfly project' something I relied on when I was younger to stop hurting myself. If you cut the butterfly, you kill them. They protect you from you, for all intents and purposes."

5. "I am here for a reason."

44-year-old mom and survivor Serina Simmons used to cut herself in high school and attempted suicide at the age of 17.

"I have had severe depression since I was very young and have had to learn how to cope with it for the sake of my four children," she said. "My tattoo is mainly for myself, to remind me that I am here for a reason. It is also a promise to myself and my kids that I will be strong and complete my story."

6. Awareness and support matter.

Bill Glennon is glad for the awareness the semicolon tattoo is spreading. "This has a growing awareness," he said. "And that is good in my book. We need the support."

7. It represents a second chance — and memorializes someone who didn't make it.

"I decided to get my tattoo after recent events regarding my brother, as he is in a really bad place at the moment. Since he likes tattoos, it seemed perfect," Kerrieanne Derbyshire said about her tattoo.

"I turned it into a butterfly, as butterflies represent the soul and I feel like personally I have a second chance after suffering from depression myself and seeking help. The butterfly is also for my cousin who lost her battle."

8. People are showing support for family members who are struggling.


Amy Purnest (left) and her best friend got semicolon tattoos together. Amy did it for her cousin, who deals with depression.

When Amy's cousin told her about The Semicolon Tattoo Project, her cousin explained, "There are days the depression almost wins. Every time I see that tattoo, or someone with 'love' on their arm, it reminds me there's hope.'"

"I got it for her," Amy said. "And if over the course of my lifetime just one person sees my tattoo and it makes them feel the same way, then it was worth it."

9. And they're showing support for friends who are struggling.

Joseph D'Amico shared, "I did this for my friend's daughter about a year ago."

Call it a trend, call it a movement, call it whatever you like, but the bottom line is this: The semicolon tattoo is a sign of survival, hope, and awareness. And that's what matters.

Family

Andy Grammer, the pop singer and songwriter behind feel-good tunes like "Keep Your Head Up," "Back Home," and "Don't Give Up on Me," has a new album out—and it is seriously fabulous. Titled simply "Naive," Grammer says it's "all about how seeing the good in todays world can feel like a rebellious act."

"I wrote this album for the light bringers," Grammer shared on Facebook. "The people who choose to see the good even in the overwhelming chaos of the bad. The smilers who fight brick by brick to build an authentic smile everyday, even when it seems like an impossible thing to do. For those who have been marginalized as 'sweet' or 'cute' or 'less powerful' for being overly positive. To me optimism is a war to be fought, possibly the most important one. If I am speaking to you and you are relating to it then know I made this album for you. You are my tribe. I love you and I hope it serves you. Don't let the world turn down your shine, we all so badly need it."

Reading that, it's easy to think maybe he really is naive, but Grammer's positivity isn't due to nothing difficult ever happening in his life. His mom, Kathy, died of breast cancer when Grammer was 25. He and his mother were very close, and her life and death had a huge impact on him.

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Culture
via Stratford Festival / Twitter

Service dogs are invaluable to their owners because they are able to help in so many different ways.

They're trained to retrieve dropped Items, open and close doors, help their owners remove their clothes, transport medications, navigate busy areas such as airports, provide visual assistance, and even give psychological help.

The service dog trainers at K-9 Country Inn Working Service Dogs in Canada want those who require service dogs to live the fullest life possible, so they're training dogs on how to attend a theatrical performance.

The adorable photos of the dogs made their way to social media where they quickly went viral.

On August 15, a dozen dogs from Golden Retrievers to poodles, were treated to a performance of "Billy Elliott" at the Stratford Festival in Ontario, Canada. This was a special "relaxed performance" featuring quieter sound effects and lighting, designed for those with sensory issues.

RELATED: This service dog and veteran are raising awareness for PTSD in inspiring ways

"It's important to prepare the dogs for any activity the handler may like to attend," Laura Mackenzie, owner and head trainer at K-9 Country Inn Working Service Dogs, told CBC.

"The theater gives us the opportunity to expose the dogs to different stimuli such as lights, loud noises, and movement of varying degrees," she continued. "The dogs must remain relaxed in tight quarters for an extended period of time."

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via Stratford Festival / Twitter


via Stratford Festival / Twitter


via Stratford Festival / Twitter

"About a dozen dogs came to our relaxed performance, and they were all extremely well-behaved," says Stratford Festival spokesperson Ann Swerdfager. "I was in the lobby when they came in, then they took their seats, then got out of their seats at intermission and went back — all of the things we learn as humans when we start going to the theater."

RELATED: This sneaky guide dog is too pure for this world. A hilarious video proves it.

The dogs' great performance at the trial run means that people who require service animals can have the freedom to enjoy special experiences like going to the theater.

"It's wonderful that going to the theater is considered one of the things that you want to train a service dog for, rather than thinking that theater is out of reach for people who require a service animal, because it isn't," Swerdfager said.

The Stratford Festival runs through Nov. 10 and features productions of "The Merry Wives of Windsor," "The Neverending Story," "Othello," "Billy Elliot," "Little Shop of Horrors," "The Crucible" and more.

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