Semicolon tattoos are bringing awareness to mental health issues, suicide in the Tampa Bay area

The tattoo is simple – just a semicolon, a grammatical symbol of the continuation of a sentence. The meaning of this tattoo is much bigger; it’s a way to bring awareness to mental health issues. 
The Semicolon Project explains its use of the grammatical symbol saying, “The sentence is your life and the author is you.”
According to its website, the 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 project started two years ago by Amy Bleuel, who wanted to honor her father after his suicide. The semicolon has recently surged in popularity and has become a tattoo trend that can be seen all over social media.
Deidre Zinn, a tattoo artist at Atomic Tattoos at Westfield Brandon, says that she has had six clients over the past month ask for semicolon tattoos. 
“After the third one I did in a span of two weeks, I started to reach why people are getting semicolons. I thought it was such a great project that’s bringing awareness to something that is normally shameful in our society,” she said.
Zinn posted a picture of one of the semicolon tattoos on her Instagram. That picture went viral after being featured on MTV and Buzzfeed articles. She’s glad that is able to be a part of this movement. 
“It means a lot to me personally. I have had a few close friends and acquaintances commit suicide, so I know the pain of being left behind," Zinn said. "If I can do one small thing to help change someone's mind, it would mean the world to me."

Atomic Tattoos at Westfield Brandon raised  $4,676 during an fundraising event on Sunday. All proceeds from the semicolon tattoos done on that day were donated to the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay

Samantha got her semicolon tattoo from Bob Hey at Commitment Tattoo in St. Petersburg.
"I lived in New York for 30 years before I moved here and suffered from depression and had an attempt (suicide) when I was 26 that I survived, thankfully. My parents and brother got me through that time and I've kind of kept it a private matter until all the LGBT suicides that started happening," said Samantha, who asked for her last name not to be used.
She says her tattoo is a reminder that things get better. 
"I've been searching for years for something to permanently ink on my body to actually make it know that I've survived and it does get better. I guess 'it gets better' is the main message. I didn't think I could get through everything that had happened and made a desperate mistake that almost cost me everything. I got through it and I know others can too," said Samantha.
If you need help or know someone who does, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. 

If you are interested in getting a semicolon tattoo while helping this cause, Foolish Pride 2 in Clearwater is having a semicolon tattoo event. The tattoo shop is donating a portion of the proceeds from every semicolon tattoo until Aug. 17 to the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay and National Alliance on Mental Illness

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