General / Founder of Project Semicolon
Project Semicolon is a global non-profit movement founded on April 16, 2013, in Green Bay, Wisconsin. It encourages each person to keep battling depression, self-harm and other issues. Amy Bleuel, the founder of Project Semicolon started with a simple message – just as an author uses a semicolon to indicate they are not through with a sentence, it's a symbol that people with mental illness aren't done yet. The story goes on.
Inspired by the lost of her father to suicide and her own struggles with mental health. On her website, she wrote, "despite the wounds of a dark past I was able to rise from the ashes, proving that the best is yet to come. When my life was filled with the pain of rejection, bullying, suicide, self-injury, addiction, abuse and even rape, I kept on fighting. I didn't have a lot of people in my corner, but the ones I did have kept me going. In my 20 years of personally struggling with mental health I experienced many stigmas associated with it."
Vulnerability to the people closest to us is already challenging, it's often mistaken for weakness when it's a mark of fearlessness. As with any advocate, all the stigma, misconceptions and confusion will be projected at you, sometimes personally. Mental illness still lacks legitimacy even though it's a massive global problem, this makes her work especially meaningful and challenging all at once. The very nature of mental illness encourages isolation and disconnection, making stories especially effective in reaching those who feel its too "peoplely" out there. When someone own their story, they are accepting themselves and others, the best way to reconnect with meaning in their lives and create meaning in the life of others.
Project Semicolon encouraged many to share their stories and many others to become advocates themselves.
There's no doubt Amy is an exemplary warrior, one who faces her demons head-on. Heart on her sleeve, semicolon in her soul. By 2015, she reached almost three million people in 90 different countries. The message resounded loud and clear, garnering 238,237 likes and 232,237 followers on Facebook, reflecting the need for more support.
It also inspired The Semicolon Tattoo Project, where Jenn Brown and Jeremy Jaramillo merge art with mental health awareness. Their idea is that tattoos are conversations starters and along with it is working with the Agora Crisis Center to provide tangible support for those in mental health crisis.
The Semicolon Tattoo Project held events at several tattoo shops where people could get a semicolon tattoo for a flat rate. In an interview with Upworthy, that money was a fundraiser for our crisis center, said Jenn. In total, over 400 people received semicolon tattoos in one day. Even better, what began as a local event has spread far and wide, and people all over the world are getting semicolon tattoos.
As with every successful movement, it took on a life of its own. Jewellery with messages of hope, resilience and strength popped up everywhere, always paired with the semicolon.
As news about her death comes in and suicide is confirmed. It's hitting me on many levels, as someone with bipolar, a mental health advocate, a caregiver and a writer. I dread the projections triggered by news like this, the speculations that threaten to weaken her message and most of all, the fear that drives it all.
So where is the hope now? What do we do now?, Kristina asks Project Seimicolon.
As I grieve her death and ponder my own suicide attempts, I think the best thing I can do is celebrate and honour her advocacy work by persisting, through the avenue she believed in - storytelling. This was a decision I made 4 years ago when I started my advocacy work and it remains the core of my being. I didn't understand the impact then, I just knew I wanted to do something. After 4 years, I realised I reached 100,000 people and counting.
Her death is a reminder that there is still much work to be done and every little bit counts. We aren't all Amy Bleuels because there was and always will be only one. We do, however, have a unique voice of our own, our own circle of influence and innate gifts to share. Never underestimate the power of one person's intention, repeated continuously. That's how change happens.
So please, if you are a writer, write about it. If you have had a mental health crisis, consider sharing your story. If you know someone with mental illness, encourage him to reach out. If you spot someone spiralling, talk to them. If you don't have a story, share one. Even if you think you are doing OK, educate yourself about it. Often sufferers are people who have been strong for too long. Mental illness can hit anyone and everyone, it's an equal opportunity killer.
Thank you Amy Bleuel, you will be missed. I will be praying for you. Your legacy lives on through me and many others. RIP knowing that your time here isn't wasted, every intention you put out there, every thought you shared and everyone you loved, especially everyone you loved, loves you back too.
Your story goes on.
Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) Confidential 24-hour Hotline 1800-221-4444
U.S National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255
Find Amy Bleuel's photo here.
Find Project Semicolon's Facebook Page here.
Find Semicolon tattoos and jewellery here.
My bipolar advocacy FB Page is here. I have passed it onto another advocate, will be helping her promote her writing.
Go to the post - World Suicide Prevention Day here.