The story behind semicolon tattoos

September isn’t just an entrance into the coziness of fall, it’s National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.

This designation comes from the National Alliance on Mental Health. Throughout September, the organization tries to shed light on suicide prevention.

For many, however, a month of emphasis isn’t enough to bring awareness to related issues like depression and anxiety. Instead, they choose to make a statement with a semicolon tattoo.

For many, like Lousiville sophomore Jacob Aoun, a semicolon tattoo is more than a punctuation mark.

“I saw it was trending and looked more into it and the meaning behind it,” Aoun said. Not long after, he got a semicolon tattoo inked on his left wrist.

In grammar, a semicolon is used to separate two independent sentences. These sentences could have been cut short and separated by a period, but they are not. Instead, the writer chooses to continue the thought.

Like a semicolon fresh from a writer’s pen, a semicolon tattoo represents the choice to continue.

It’s meant to encourage those who silently suffer from mental health issues. It is also a symbol against the stigma that comes with speaking out about mental health.

Aoun says he related to the meaning behind the tattoo when he learned about it. He knew others with mental illness, and it was something he was dealing with himself.

“I have it to represent the struggle of depression, anxiety and suicide awareness,” Aoun said.

Whether it’s depression, anxiety or another disorder, few will claim a mental illness, perhaps out of shame or in fear that they will be viewed differently. Fear and shame have the ability to hinder people from seeking healthy ways to cope.

“People just assume that they are crazy when they hear someone has mental illness or that they are suicidal,” Aoun said.

However, he believes that should not be the case.

Like Aoun, I also suffer from bouts of depression and anxiety, but I don’t give up.

About a year ago, I branded myself with a semicolon tattoo. It’s now permanently inked on my right shoulder.

I silently suffered for a long time, afraid to speak up about my struggle and worried about how I would be perceived.

I began to notice, however, that I was only harming myself by keeping my issues bottled up. I learned that opening myself up to discuss the issues I was facing relieved the stress. My semicolon tattoo drew others who were also struggling toward me.

Finding personal ways to handle depression and anxiety is a battle many continue to face, but the semicolon tattoo serves as a constant reminder to carry on.