They're showing up on bodies throughout the world. A simple design, originally nothing more than an underrated punctuation mark, now coming to symbolize something much more meaningful. But with the popularity of the tattoo skyrocketing and individuals getting inked left and right, does the trademark semicolon tattoo still hold significance or has it simply become part of a worldwide trend?
Project Semicolon, also referred to as The Semicolon Project, is a faith-based movement "dedicated to presenting hope and love to those who are struggling with depression, suicide, addiction and self-injury." The movement began in 2013, when founder Amy Bleul got a semicolon tattooed on her wrist to honor her father whom she lost to suicide.
Social media has spread Bleul's message around the world, and thousands have joined the movement to support those struggling and to share their own stories. According to the official website, the movement uses a semicolon as its symbol because "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." The slogan 'Stay Strong; Love Endlessly; Change Lives' sums up the project's mission in supporting those struggling and encouraging them to seek the help that they deserve.
Scores of individuals have gotten the tattoo as a symbol of the things they have fought and the obstacles they have overcome. The semicolon acts as a daily reminder that they have survived, and can continue to survive, because they are not alone.
College freshman Jenna Krueger got the tattoo in the fall of 2014 with her best friend, to serve as both a reminder of the struggles they'd had with mental illness as well as the enduring support they have for each other.
"For me it served as both a 'life keeps going' and reminder that I will always have [my best friend] by my side to help me."
Krueger has mixed feelings about the tattoo's growing popularity.
"It kind of irritates me but at the same time makes me happy,' she says.. 'I'm nervous that, if a lot of people get the semicolon tattoo just to get it, that it will kind of lose it's originality...I'm nervous that someone will see that I have the tattoo and say something along the lines of "Oh, another person with a semicolon tattoo."
However, she does like the idea of increased awareness for mental illness. "A lot of people getting the tattoo makes me happy at the same time, though, because it means that the stigma surrounding mental illness is coming to light and being talked about more openly and without judgment."
While the popular tattoos act as conversation starters to help raise awareness about mental illness and addiction, the overwhelming presence of the mark almost threatens to trivialize its true significance.
Project Semicolon is an amazing movement with incredible power, making leaps and bounds towards eliminating the stigma surrounding mental illness and addiction. The tattoo is a way of telling the world that you have survived, that you are strong, and that you are still fighting. It is also a display of support to those still struggling.
Some may find it difficult to understand why an individual would want to obtain a permanent reminder of the adversity they have faced.
"One of the comments I get a lot about it is something along the lines of "Why would you want a tattoo reminding you of such a hard time? It's just a constant reminder of a tough time in your life," says Krueger. "I guess you can look at it like that, but I think tattoos are kind of like a story... For me, the tattoo reminds me 'Hey, you know what? Yeah. You did go through a really rough patch, but you made it through before and you are going to continue to stay strong.'"
ProjectSemicolon.com provides more than just a symbol for a global movement. The platform features storytellers who write of their experiences with mental illness and addiction, as well as resources for both individuals struggling and those who simply want to show their support.
If you feel inspired by this movement or by your own life experiences then, by all means, get the tattoo. That is what tattoos are meant for -- to permanently engrain something onto your body that is incredibly meaningful to you. All I ask is that, before you make the decision, make sure you are getting the tattoo for the right reasons, whatever those reasons may be for you.
Because semicolons, and the millions of souls that they represent, are so much more than just a trend.