Amy Bleuel has passed away.
She raised awareness about ending stigmas associated with mental health issues. She started Project Semicolon, an effort that has spread around the world and impacted thousands of people, many of whom are now tattooed with the ; symbol.
The idea was simple. A semicolon is used when a writer could have used a period, ended a sentence, but didn’t.
In the United Church of Christ, we’ve had a saying for a while about never putting a period where God has placed a comma. It’s our way of saying that God is still speaking, and it comes from Gracie Allen.
Obviously, there’s a close connection between Amy’s insights and Gracie’s.
I have resisted getting my own semicolon tattoo, because, as someone dealing with anxiety and OCD, I don’t like the idea of something on my body constantly reminding me of my anxieties, my obsessions, and my compulsions. But that’s only because when I am faithful to my medicine, I’m largely able to not even think about those things (thank God).
I know others have different experiences. I know that for many, the ; tattoo is an affirming, lifesaving commitment. I know that I want to do more in support of people who struggle with mental health issues. I want to be more visible about solidarity. Removing the stigma is a essential part of that.
Once upon a time I worked for a Big Church where impressions really mattered. I said “fuck the stigma” of mental health issues on Facebook and got scolded by the head of staff. I then explained that the statement wasn’t just about solidarity, but it was also an invitation to conversation, and that people in need had reached out to me because of it.
End the stigma. Fuck the stigma. Fuck that bogus piety, too.
The comma and the semicolon call us to keep on living and breathing and doing.
Thank you, Amy. You were brave and strong. We need voices like yours and the ones you have empowered. We need advocates and we need allies.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741.