3 Survivors Share The Meaning Behind Their Semicolon Tattoos

Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
Trigger warning: This story contains sensitive content regarding suicide.
Season two of 13 Reasons Why begins with Clay heading into a tattoo parlor with the intention of getting a semicolon design, a marking that holds special significance to those who wear it. “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," explained the late Amy Bleuel, founder of Project Semicolon, an organization dedicated to the prevention of suicide.
The message is a hopeful one to the countless people affected by depression, mental illness, and self harm — and it's one the 13 Reasons Why cast have aimed to spread off-screen as well. Selena Gomez, Alisha Boe, Tommy Dorfman, and Brandon Flynn are among the thousands of people who wear semicolon tattoos all over the world.
We talked to three women about why they inked the design for themselves and what it means to them now. Read their stories, ahead.
If you are thinking about suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or the Suicide Crisis Line at 1-800-784-2433.
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“I got this tattoo in 2015 to celebrate overcoming a depressive episode and to let others who suffer from depression know that they are not alone. In the beginning, a lot of people asked me about it, but now it seems everyone understands it for the most part. I hope it shows that more people suffer from depression than we think and you can't judge a book by its cover.”

Renée, 25, Alberta
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“When I was 16, I first attempted suicide and was hospitalized for a month. The second time was for cutting my wrists and I was hospitalized for that. This year, I relapsed again. I was like, I don’t ever want to do this again. I don’t ever want to hurt myself. So I got this tattoo a week ago near the scars I have. Having that tattoo there is a reminder that I was kept alive and my story could have ended, but it didn’t. I’m here for a reason.

At first, my dad was upset because he thinks it brings more attention to my scars, but I think that bringing attention isn’t a bad thing. There are so many people who are struggling in silence. I just want to scream for everyone to keep fighting.”

— Brielle, 20, U.S.A.
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Photo: Marlon Nero, @neropix
"I call this tattoo my personal love note. I got it on my 33rd birthday after going through a whole lot of unpleasant, life-damaging experiences, and dealing with depression and surviving narcissistic abuse. Its relevance and meaning struck me and encouraged me to carry on no matter what.

"I've experienced two suicides in my family and this tattoo also helps me remember my loved ones — those who have passed away and are still here. When people see my tattoo, I always tell them about my story and how I chose to carry on no matter what and how I turned my pain into my passion."

— Ayanda, 36, South Africa

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