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Mental Health

A semicolon tattoo

Have you seen anyone with a semicolon tattoo like the one above?

If not, you may not be looking close enough. They're popping up...

Semicolon Tattoo

Semicolon Tattoo

Photo by The Semicolon Tattoo Project.


Photo by The Semicolon Tattoo Project.

That's right: the semicolon. It's a tattoo that has gained popularity in recent years, but unlike other random or mystifying trends, this one has a serious meaning behind it. (And no, it's not just the mark of a really committed grammar nerd.)

The semicolon tattoo represents mental health struggles and the importance of suicide prevention.

Photo by The Semicolon Tattoo Project.

Project Semicolon was born from a social media movement in 2013.

They describe themselves as a "movement dedicated to presenting hope and love to those who are struggling with depression, suicide, addiction, and self-injury. Project Semicolon exists to encourage, love, and inspire."

But why a semicolon?

"A semicolon is used when an author could've chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to. The author is you and the sentence is your life."

Originally created as a day where people were encouraged to draw a semicolon on their bodies and photograph it, it quickly grew into something greater and more permanent. Today, people all over the world are tattooing the mark as a reminder of their struggle, victory, and survival.

Photos by The Semicolon Tattoo Project.

I spoke with Jenn Brown and Jeremy Jaramillo of The Semicolon Tattoo Project, an organization inspired by the semicolon movement. Along with some friends, Jenn and Jeremy saw an opportunity to both help the community and reduce the stigma around mental illness.

In 2012, over 43 million Americans dealt with a mental illness. Mental illness is not uncommon, yet there is a stigma around it that prevents a lot of people from talking about it — and that's a barrier to getting help.

More conversations that lead to less stigma? Yes please.

"[The tattoo] is a conversation starter," explains Jenn. "People ask what it is and we get to tell them the purpose."

"I think if you see someone's tattoo that you're interested in, that's fair game to start a conversation with someone you don't know," adds Jeremy. "It provides a great opportunity to talk. Tattoos are interesting — marks we put on our bodies that are important to us."

In 2014, The Semicolon Tattoo Project held an event at several tattoo shops where people could get a semicolon tattoo for a flat rate. "That money was a fundraiser for our crisis center," said Jenn. In total, over 400 people received semicolon tattoos in one day. Even better, what began as a local event has spread far and wide, and people all over the world are getting semicolon tattoos.

And it's not just about the conversation — it's about providing tangible support and help too.

Jenn and Jeremy work with the Agora Crisis Center. Founded in 1970, it's one of the oldest crisis centers in the country. Through The Semicolon Tattoo Project, they've been able to connect even more people with the help they need during times of crisis. (If you need someone to talk to, scroll to the end of the article for the center's contact information.)

So next time you see this small punctuation tattoo, remember the words of Upworthy writer Parker Molloy:

"I recently decided to get a semicolon tattoo. Not because it's trendy (though, it certainly seems to be at the moment), but because it's a reminder of the things I've overcome in my life. I've dealt with anxiety, depression, and gender dysphoria for the better part of my life, and at times, that led me down a path that included self-harm and suicide attempts.

But here I am, years later, finally fitting the pieces of my life together in a way I never thought they could before. The semicolon (and the message that goes along with it) is a reminder that I've faced dark times, but I'm still here."

No matter how we get there, the end result is so important: help and support for more people to also be able to say " I'm still here."

If you want to see more incredible semicolon tattoos, check out nine photos and stories that our readers shared with us!

This article was written by Laura Willard and originally appeared on 7.7.15

Feeling good.

Last week, Amber Smith from Warwickshire, England, revealed something about herself that many of her Facebook friends didn't know:

She suffers from crippling panic attacks.

Smith shared her story by posting two completely different pictures of herself and the powerful imagery has been shared over 7,500 times.

"Top Picture: What I showcase to the world via social media. Dressed up, make-up done, filters galore. The 'normal' side to me.”

community, social media, selfie

Dressed up and ready.

Amber Smith on Facebook.

"Bottom picture: Taken tonight shortly after suffering from a panic attack because of my anxiety. Also, the 'normal' side to me that most people don't see."

panic attack, Facebook, Amber Smith

Suffering the panic attack.

Amber Smith on Facebook.

Full post:

God knows why I'm doing this, but people need some home truths..

Top picture: What I showcase to the world via social media. Dressed up, make up done, filters galore. The 'normal' side to me.
Bottom picture: Taken tonight shortly after suffering from a panic attack because of my anxiety. Also the 'normal'' side to me that most people don't see.

I'm so sick of the fact that it's 2016 and there is still so much stigma around mental health. It disgusts me that so many people are so uneducated and judgmental over the topic. They say that 1 in 3 people will suffer with a mental illness at some point in their life. 1 in 3! Do you know how many people that equates to worldwide?! And yet I've been battling with anxiety and depression for years and years and there's still people that make comments like 'you'll get over it', 'you don't need tablets, just be happier', 'you're too young to suffer with that'

F*** YOU. F*** all of you small minded people that think that because I physically look 'fine' that I'm not battling a monster inside my head every single day.

Someone actually said this to me one day 'aren't you too young to be suffering with anxiety and depression? What do you actually have to be depressed about at your age?'' Wow, just wow.

I'm a strong person, I've been through my fair share of crap in life (the same as anyone else) and I will be okay. I have the best family and friends around me and I am thankful everyday that they have the patience to help and support me.
To anyone who is going through the same, please do not suffer in silence. There is so much support around - Don't be scared to ask for help.

This is why I can't stress enough that it costs nothing to be nice to others. Don't bully others, don't put others down and the hardest one of them all (as we have all done it at some point) don't judge another person. We're all human regardless of age, race, religion, wealth, job. So build one another up instead of breaking each other down.
Peace & love guys

Smith's before-and-after photos perfectly symbolize how panic attacks feel, because they often come on without any warning. People suffering from attacks can experience shortness of breath, heart palpitations, trembling, hot and cold flashes or myriad other debilitating symptoms.

According to the National Institutes of Mental Health, over four million Americans suffer from panic attacks, and although they are emotionally debilitating, they can be overcome through cognitive/behavioral therapy. According to Thomas A. Richards, Ph. D, "Today, panic attacks and agoraphobia can be treated successfully with a motivated client and a knowledgeable therapist."

This article originally appeared on 09.26.17


Gen Xers wonder how the Space Shuttle Challenger tragedy would be handled by adults today

As children we watched a teacher and six astronauts explode on live TV, then went right back to class.

NASA/Public Domain

The Space Shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after liftoff on January 28, 1986.

For the baby boomer generation, the question "Where were you when JFK was shot?" evokes a core memory. For Gen Xers, it's "Where were you when the Challenger exploded?" Nearly four decades later, most of us can still recall where we were when the tragic mission went terribly wrong.

Most of us were in classrooms. The space shuttle mission had been hyped in schools across the country for months, as high school teacher Christa McAuliffe had been chosen from 11,000 applicants to become the first civilian in space. McAuliffe had done countless interviews and been part of news and television specials showing how she was being trained for the mission, and by the time of the launch, she'd become a household name.

the seven astronauts on the crew of the space shuttle challengerSeven astronauts, including teacher Christa McAuliffe, were killed in the Challenger explosion. NASA/Public Domain

On January 28, 1986, millions of children across the country were eagerly watching the live TV feed in their classrooms when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded mid-air, just 73 seconds after liftoff. Confusion followed by shock and horror set in as we realized that we'd just watched seven people die in real time—six astronauts, who held almost god-like status for kids in the 1980s, and a woman who could have been any of our favorite teachers.

I was in 5th grade. My teacher cried. Then she turned off the television and we just…went back to class.

Gen X is sometimes referred to as the forgotten generation—the latchkey kids raised by two working parents who learned to be independent as well as cynical and aloof due to benign neglect. But as a social media meme points out, the Challenger tragedy and aftermath serves as an example of why we are the way we are.

The meme shared by Gen X Only on Facebook reads, "If you ever wonder why Gen X is the way it is, remember that teachers hyped a rocket launch and astronauts that then exploded in front of us. No counseling, no hugs or reassurances. They just assigned more homework. And this is just a sample."

middle aged woman's face with text overlay

This explains some things about Gen X.

GenX Only | Facebook

Gen Xers in the comments then shared their memories of that day, and they do make one wonder how differently schools would respond if the same thing happened today. Mental health wasn't a big focus in schools in the 80s, and the idea that kids were traumatized by what they saw and might need some help processing it barely seemed like a blip on the radar.

"Saw it in my 4th grade class with my favorite teacher Ms.waters , I just remember my teacher crying and walking out of the classroom .I was super confused I remember that, I know what we just watched wasn't normal! and we went on with our day literally, no mention of it I don't remember at home or anything." – Stacey R.

"Yep, saw it live, then they turned off tv and went on with class. Not sure what the guidance counselors did in those days??!!" – Kim M.

"I'll never forget this.I was in Spanish class, watching.When it exploded, there was gasps and silent confusion....Silence for what felt like forever. Spanish teacher broke from her rule of Spanish only in class. She looked at us with tears rolling down her face and said, "I can't believe that just happened.....(turns off TV, wipes tears) please pull out your book and turn to page (whatever it was)".And that was that." – Kelli L.

"It was traumatic! The TV gets rolled in on its cart. We learn all about the average person on the flight, a teacher, I mean how cool you can be a teacher and go to space. Classroom is all a buzz as we count down with the TV 3, 2, 1! Then wham giant explosion, wait, hold up, did everyone just die? Everyone, even the teacher is in total shock, the TV is still on as we hear them say the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded, and there are no survivors. We all just sat in shock. I don't think it sank in for some of the kids what we had just witnessed. For those of us that understood it was a very strange day, a very strange few days. NOBODY talked about what we had witnessed. We just went through the motions of school, without any help to process it. We never watched any shuttle take off after that, and we used to watch all of them. When the TV got rolled in there wasn’t as much excitement as usual for the rest of the school year. And we all just moved on, because we didn't know what else to do, the adults just acted like it didn't happen." – Lori G.

"I was in 3rd grade...I remember watching it in class after spending all week doing special projects because an 'average' person who was a teacher was gonna get to go to space...it blew up and we thought there was a fireworks show because of how special this launch was hyped to be...And then we went about our day.." – David K.

Millennials had 9/11 as kids. Gen Z has seen school shooting after school shooting. Both Gen Z and Gen Alpha had the COVID pandemic onset as a core childhood memory.

But those younger generations have grown up with much more sensitivity and adult awareness when it comes to mental health issues. Teachers have more training in trauma and there's a better understanding that kids could be affected emotionally by witnessing something like the Challenger disaster. Some schools and classes held remembrances and memorials for the Challenger crew, planting trees in their honor and whatnot, which may have helped bring some closure to the event for some. But for many Gen X kids, all we remember was the horror of it happening and then a complete lack of any kind of processing of it—just a near-immediate moving on.

Was the unspoken "Life is tough, move on" message we received through that experience helpful or harmful to Gen Xers' development? Who knows. There's a fine line between traumatizing and toughening, and that line is likely different for each person. But it's interesting to think about how differently that event might be handled today with our greater grasp of how trauma works and knowing how weird it was to have so little acknowledgment of it at the time.


Response to person grieving for friend might be best internet comment of all time

“I wish I could say you get used to people dying. I never did. I don't want to.”

"My friend just died. I don't know what to do."

Upvoted, an online publication from Reddit featuring the most compelling content from their site, recently republished this "classic" piece originally posted around 2011. The beautiful piece of writing was done by a commenter in response to a poster asking for advice on grief.

The original post simply read: "My friend just died. I don't know what to do."

Here was Redditor GSnow's moving advice:

"Alright, here goes. I'm old. What that means is that I've survived (so far) and a lot of people I've known and loved did not. I've lost friends, best friends, acquaintances, co-workers, grandparents, mom, relatives, teachers, mentors, students, neighbors, and a host of other folks. I have no children, and I can't imagine the pain it must be to lose a child. But here's my two cents.

I wish I could say you get used to people dying. I never did. I don't want to. It tears a hole through me whenever somebody I love dies, no matter the circumstances. But I don't want it to "not matter". I don't want it to be something that just passes. My scars are a testament to the love and the relationship that I had for and with that person. And if the scar is deep, so was the love. So be it. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are a testament that I can love deeply and live deeply and be cut, or even gouged, and that I can heal and continue to live and continue to love. And the scar tissue is stronger than the original flesh ever was. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are only ugly to people who can't see.

As for grief, you'll find it comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, you're drowning, with wreckage all around you. Everything floating around you reminds you of the beauty and the magnificence of the ship that was, and is no more. And all you can do is float. You find some piece of the wreckage and you hang on for a while. Maybe it's some physical thing. Maybe it's a happy memory or a photograph. Maybe it's a person who is also floating. For a while, all you can do is float. Stay alive.

In the beginning, the waves are 100 feet tall and crash over you without mercy. They come 10 seconds apart and don't even give you time to catch your breath. All you can do is hang on and float. After a while, maybe weeks, maybe months, you'll find the waves are still 100 feet tall, but they come further apart. When they come, they still crash all over you and wipe you out. But in between, you can breathe, you can function. You never know what's going to trigger the grief. It might be a song, a picture, a street intersection, the smell of a cup of coffee. It can be just about anything...and the wave comes crashing. But in between waves, there is life.

Somewhere down the line, and it's different for everybody, you find that the waves are only 80 feet tall. Or 50 feet tall. And while they still come, they come further apart. You can see them coming. An anniversary, a birthday, or Christmas, or landing at O'Hare. You can see it coming, for the most part, and prepare yourself. And when it washes over you, you know that somehow you will, again, come out the other side. Soaking wet, sputtering, still hanging on to some tiny piece of the wreckage, but you'll come out.

Take it from an old guy. The waves never stop coming, and somehow you don't really want them to. But you learn that you'll survive them. And other waves will come. And you'll survive them too. If you're lucky, you'll have lots of scars from lots of loves. And lots of shipwrecks."

Here's the original post:

mourning, loss, friendship, grief

Advice on losing a friend.

via Reddit

This article originally appeared on 9.21.21