Semicolon bracelets and jewelry has flooded social media. Surely, you’ve come across images on Instagram and Twitter of people with semicolon bracelets, necklaces and even tattoos. But it’s not just another mindless, popular trend or a simple fashion statement. While admittedly, it does work quite well visually, Semicolon jewelry is actually much cooler and much more important. It is part of a movement that is breaking down social stigma, delivering a powerful message on the importance of suicide prevention and, for people affected by mental illness and suicide, it is a symbol of hope.
So, why a semicolon?
According to The Semicolon Project, “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.” Thus, the humble semicolon has been redefined into a mighty character. It serves as a reminder to people: Your “sentence” is not over yet.
This new meaning has resonated with people worldwide. One blogger wrote, “As I sit on my sofa tonight, I look at my wrist and see dangling from my charm bracelet a delicate semicolon charm. It is my homage to the Semicolon Project and a reminder that I am still here.”
“My semicolon tells me there was a day, or in my case many days, where I thought it would be best to end the story of my life.” The writer explains how, after the birth of her youngest daughter, postpartum moods deteriorated into bipolar disorder. She explains how finding others who struggled with mental illness helped keep her hanging on – that and the symbol of the semicolon.
“The symbol made sense to me. It resonated. As a writer, I could grasp the meaning. I could hang on.”
Project Semicolon began in 2013 as one woman’s way to honor the father she lost to suicide. Amy Bleuel, a Wisconsin resident who battled her own struggles against depression and mental illness, got a semicolon tattoo as a symbol of hope.
Shortly afterward, The Semicolon Project was founded; a non-profit dedicated to supporting people who have struggled with depression, anxiety, self-harm, and other forms of mental illness. Since then, countless people have taken to blogs and social media to share their semicolon inkings and jewelry, along with their stories.
With the belief that suicide is generally preventable, the mission of Project Semicolon is to help reduce the incidents of suicide in the world through connected community and greater access to information and resources. It does this in 3 major ways:
- Semicolon jewelry is a physical reminder of the courage and resilience it takes for people fighting mental illness to carry on. A person struggling with mental illness, just has to glance down at one little symbol on their wrist, ankle or belly button, and they can be reminded that they’ll be okay, because they are capable of going on, in spite of the dark times. They’ve not only survived what life has thrown at them, but conquered it, and they can keep writing their story.
One person, Parker Molloy stated, “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.”
- The movement unites people with similar stories and struggles by allowing them to find kinship networks of people who understand their experiences. This is crucial in helping people fight their battles, because one of the most crippling feelings is that of being alone and misunderstood. By allowing people to identify with a group of people who are strong and capable, they can feel strong and capable. Thus, through this instant link that semicolon jewelry provides, people are empowered.
Julie Paama-Pengelly, the owner of a tattoo parlor in New Zealand, says symbols that communicate a positive message are a way people can show their empathy and support for others. “It provides a sense of support, and community, that we don’t always get these days.”
- Semicolon jewelry is a conversation starter, on an issue that desperately needs this discussion to fight stigma:
Many of us have stories of battling invisible demons like depression, and being told that because they can’t be seen, they don’t exist. “It’s just in your head. It’s mind over matter.” These attitudes prevent a lot of people from getting the help they need, and the only way to change it is by initiating dialogue, so that it can be more widely accepted and understood.
This is where semicolon jewelry comes in. It relieves the pressure that suicide attempt survivors feel to be silent about their experiences as it serves as an excellent conversation starter. Once we begin telling our stories, we also search for others like us, and survivors are able to network and support each other.
It is not the end.
One blogger from Kansas City, Heather Parrie, went online to describe the symbol’s significance in a post that, according to BuzzFeed, has now been viewed 7 million times.
She wrote that depression had cost her the job she’d wanted since first setting foot on campus, and left her, metaphorically speaking, “lying at the bottom of a lake, unable to breathe while, effortlessly, everyone around me grew gills”.
“I got this semicolon bracelet as a promise to myself that I would never willingly end my sentence. I got it as a reminder to take this summer as a pause, and then to keep going strong next year.
“I also got this semicolon charm bracelet to open up conversations between myself and other humans about mental illness, because as difficult as mental illness is, what’s more difficult is feeling stigmatized. Or like you failed. Or like people are feeling sorry for you.”
In this way, the semicolon jewelry trend has delivered a powerful message of hope, the celebration of life, and the affirmation that we have the power to move forward. You can survive this. “Your story is not over yet.”
Semicolon bracelet and the semicolon necklace from surewaydm.com