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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.

Pop Culture

Artist uses AI to create ultra realistic portraits of celebrities who left us too soon

What would certain icons look like if nothing had happened to them?

Mercury would be 76 today.

Some icons have truly left this world too early. It’s a tragedy when anyone doesn’t make it to see old age, but when it happens to a well-known public figure, it’s like a bit of their art and legacy dies with them. What might Freddie Mercury have created if he were granted the gift of long life? Bruce Lee? Princess Diana?

Their futures might be mere musings of our imagination, but thanks to a lot of creativity (and a little tech) we can now get a glimpse into what these celebrities might have looked like when they were older.

Alper Yesiltas, an Istanbul-based lawyer and photographer, created a photography series titled “As If Nothing Happened,” which features eerily realistic portraits of long gone celebrities in their golden years. To make the images as real looking as possible, Yesiltas incorporated various photo editing programs such as Adobe Lightroom and VSCO, as well as the AI photo-enhancing software Remini.

“The hardest part of the creative process for me is making the image feel ‘real’ to me,” Yesiltas wrote about his passion project. “The moment I like the most is when I think the image in front of me looks as if it was taken by a photographer.”

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Along with each photo, Yesiltas writes a bittersweet message “wishing” how things might have gone differently … as if nothing happened.
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All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

True

Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

via Dion Merrick / Facebook

This article originally appeared on 02.09.21


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