To Be Continued: Significance of the Semicolon in Mental Health


Hannah Hart

The semicolon symbolizing a continuation of mental health awareness. “The significance of the semicolon emphasizes strength and courage of those who struggled with mental health,” Smith said.

Hannah Hart, Staff Writer

Mental health issues such as depression, addiction, and many others are constantly present in the lives of the people they burden. Fortunately, there is another constant that combats the effects of these conditions: the semicolon. Created to symbolize affirmation and solidarity against suicide, depression, addiction, and other mental health issues, the semicolon inspires strength in the midst of suffering.

The rebooted meaning of this underappreciated punctuation mark is the product of Project Semicolon, a non-profit with a goal of promoting mental health wellness and suicide prevention that was founded by Amy Bleuel in 2013. The semicolon, the project’s logo of sorts, is meant to represent a continuation, specifically of life, not an end. It marks a decision to move forward, not to stop.

“It gives hope and love to those who are suffering and encourages them to persevere through the difficult times,” sophomore Zoe Parizek said. “The semicolon is also a reminder to accept and support people battling mental illness.”

Those in support of this initiative are encouraged to get a tattoo of the symbol so that they can be reminded of the support and love moving them forward. As a tattoo, it is as incessant as the mental conditions it is used to fight, which only increases its positive impact on the owner and the world.

“This tattoo brings awareness to mental health issues by acknowledging mental illnesses as a whole, and that mental illness still impacts a lot of people,” sophomore Maria Smith said.

The tattoo also attaches a heightened level of positivity to the semicolon as it conveys the deeper meaning behind the symbol all the while serving as an emblem of joy and growth. “I think it is a creative way for some to say they are going to carry on,” sophomore Alexandra Hawkes said.

Although started in 2013, Project Semicolon’s trademark symbol was further popularized when it became associated with the controversial Netflix series Thirteen Reasons Why. In its second season, one of the show’s characters got a semicolon tattoo and in 2017, Selena Gomez, a producer of the show, got the tattoo with Tommy Dorfman and Alisha Boe, actors on the show.

With its impact and message amplified, the semicolon has been gaining recognition everywhere, including the State High community. “We all face adversity and hardships in our lives,” Marisa Vicere, president and founder of the Jana Marie Foundation, a Pennsylvania-centered foundation with a goal of promoting mental well-being, said. “The semicolon is a powerful symbol to remind us that our story isn’t over. This movement has opened honest conversations about mental illness and suicide, helping to break down stigmas.”

In recent years, discussions of mental illnesses have continued to grow and reduce stigma. The semicolon has played a large role in this movement and has helped to change the way people perceive mental health.

“Our mental wellness demands the same attention that is often given to the physical well-being,” Vicere said. “With over 47,000 Americans taking their lives each year, it is critical that we find ways to end the stigma and remind people they are not alone. The semicolon has helped spark these important conversations, breaking down barriers and helping individuals feel more comfortable with reaching out for help.”

The semicolon symbol inspires hope in those who need it most but also brings awareness to mental health issues and wellness as a whole. “I personally think it is a wonderful way to draw attention to the nearly taboo topic, especially from people who have gone through a troubling and dark time in their lives,” Hawkes said.

The semicolon, though small, symbolizes a message that can breach the darkness of people’s minds by providing light. As a tattoo, it does the same by serving as a reminder of the love and support the world offers. No matter what it means to each individual, the semicolon works to generate strength and positivity whenever and wherever they are needed most.

“I believe the symbol and movement demonstrate that we are not alone,” Vicere said.

Suicide Prevention Resources:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741