People Are Getting Semicolon Tattoos for a Personal and Emotional Reason

Alex West - Author

Nov. 30 2023, Published 8:10 a.m. ET

A semicolon tattoo on a woman's wrist
Source: Getty Images

The Gist:

  • A semicolon tattoo signifies a struggle with suicidal ideation.
  • Project Semicolon offers free resources.
  • Other mental health tattoos include butterflies, lyrics, and chemical symbols.
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Some tattoos are meaningless, frivolous, or just for fun. Art for the sake of art! Any tattoo enthusiast knows, though, that many tattoos come with deep meaning for the person who has it inked. Of course, these types of tattoos can come in many shapes, sizes, and symbols, including the semicolon.

In the past several years, the semicolon has been showing up on the skin of plenty of people, especially millennials and Gen Z. The trend seemed to pop up out of nowhere, but it definitely has a very meaningful reason attached to it.

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Large semicolon tattoo on a woman's wrist
Source: Getty Images

What does a semicolon tattoo mean?

To understand what the tattoo itself means, you'll need to understand the purpose a semicolon serves in grammar. Unlike a period, a semicolon doesn't signify the end of a sentence. Instead, it rests between two main clauses and, rather than an end, just signifies a pause.

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The pause is a little more expressive than your typical comma because the two clauses are much more separate than the ones divided by a comma. Nonetheless, there's a main clause that could have ended, but it didn't; it went on to become a continued thought.

The meaning of the tattoo is exactly the same: It signifies something that could have ended but didn't. Typically, people with semicolon tattoos are referencing their own life. The semicolon tattoo generally means that someone contemplated or attempted suicide, but persevered. Of course, some people also get the semicolon tattoo in solidarity with a loved one who struggles with their mental health.

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Suicide awareness cover and center Tatyana Sosa
Source: Getty Images

What is Project Semicolon?

"A semicolon is used when an author could've chosen to end their sentence but chose not to. The author is you, and the sentence is your life," explains an organization called Project Semicolon.

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The project aims to create a community for people struggling with mental illness. It offers support for those who may be struggling with suicidal thoughts and connects individuals with resources that may help.

Project Semicolon makes a mental health assessment accessible for those who aren't sure if they need to see a medical professional. While it's not an official evaluation, over 2,000 people have used it as a guide.

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The organization also helps connect people with free mental health sessions. "Stats show that most people experiencing the symptoms of mental illness, never consult a mental health professional. Our goal is to introduce more people to world of getting better," explains their website.

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While Project Semicolon isn't necessarily the creators of the semicolon tattoo, they do discuss the trend on their website. In a blog post, they walk readers through the meaning of that tattoo and explain why people may choose to get it.

"The semicolon tattoo’s ability to resonate with millions all over the world lies in its representation of hope, resilience, and unity. It has become a powerful tool for breaking the silence around mental health issues and fostering a supportive global community," they explain.

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What are other mental health related tattoo ideas?

While the semicolon has a deep meaning, it surely isn't for everyone. Other people who want to represent their relationship with mental health may choose to get another tattoo. A great option is a quote or song lyrics that are particularly meaningful or act as a source of strength during a dark time.

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Another option is a butterfly tattoo on someone's wrist. Often, people will choose to get this design done if they've struggled with self-harm before. The concept is that if the person with the tattoo self-harms again, it would "kill" the butterfly during the relapse.

Many people with mental illness struggle with certain chemical and hormonal imbalances. As a result, some people choose to get the chemical make up of dopamine or serotonin tattooed.

If you or someone you know are experiencing suicidal thoughts, call, text, or message the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. Dial or text 988, call 1-800-273-8255, or chat via their website.

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