Amy Bleuel, the inspirational founder of Project Semicolon, passed away recently, aged only 31. Her project inspired many people to talk about their mental illness, and was a source of hope and strength for people suffering from mental ill health, addictions, and self-harm.
The semicolon project and its significance
As a writer, I know the meaning of a semi-colon. It indicates a pause in a sentence, but it tells you that there’s more to follow. This was essentially the main message from the project; your story is not over.
Amy herself was quoted as saying,
“In literature, an author uses a semicolon to not end a sentence but to continue on. We see it as you are the author and your life is the sentence. You’re choosing to keep going.”
The semicolon became a symbol of hope and positivity for people who struggled with suicidal thoughts and/or self harm. Many people had the symbol tattooed on them, others wore jewellery as a simple, but definite statement; I am NOT giving up.
Amy initially started the project as a tribute to her father, who committed suicide when she was 18. She also saw it as her reminder to carry on, despite facing her own mental health problems which stemmed from physical and emotional abuse that she had suffered as a child.
On the project’s website, she talks about how she kept on fighting, and how important it was to her to have people fighting with her. She recalls how she experienced stigma, but also how her pain led her to a place where she was able to find inspiration, a deeper love for people, and a deeper meaning in life. She calls on those who are suffering to ‘remember there is hope for a better tomorrow.’
The growth of project semicolon
The project has resonated with many people over the last 4 years. It has almost 240,000 followers on Facebook, and many people have been inspired to share their tattoos and their own experiences which they might otherwise have felt unable to do. More than this though, it has helped many people to carry on when they had lost hope.
Making the choice to keep on going
For people suffering from mental ill health, every day can be an endless struggle. It can feel like being stuck in a dark tunnel where there is no light. Or in a deep, dark pit, where you are just stuck. You’re not alive, not really. You merely exist. Life has lost its meaning and living has lost its point. Yet somehow you carry on. Because no matter how bad things get, there’s someone to listen, someone to understand, someone to be there, and something that give us hope that better days will come. Amy Bleuel was one of those people and her project was one of many that resonate with people who have a mental illness. Projects such as hers make people feel like they can talk about what was once taboo. They can talk about their experiences of self-harm and suicide attempts without it being considered unthinkable. They now have people to talk to who will listen without prejudice. But there’s more to do.
Amy’s legacy will live on in every person who feels able to speak out, and in every person who now feels able put one foot in front of the other and live another day.
When you’re ill, you can feel like it’s the end of the world, but it’s not. Every day you are making the choice to carry on. And for every person who tells you you’re weak, or when you tell yourself that you’re weak, remember that. The fact that you made the choice to keep going makes you pretty damn strong.
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