Stigmas and Semicolons


I, like everyone else, have noticed a marked increase in the number of people who are choosing to decorate their bodies with tattoos.  In fact on any given day, on any given social media site, people are posting pictures of their tattoos.  A practise which was once relegated by mainstream society to criminals, and social outcasts has now become not only acceptable, but desirable.  Tattooing or inking, has become an outlet for expressing one’s originality, representing a milestone, a proud moment, or a hardship which has been conquered.   Recently, on FB, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram I have noticed a slew of semicolon tattoo photo posts; plain semicolons, semicolons set into images of butterflies, roses, hearts and the like.  These tattoos however, hold a deeper meaning and represent something more than a clever and charming twist on a punctuation mark. The tattoos are part of a movement known as the Semicolon Movement, and the mission statement found on their homepage had a profound effect on me when I read it,

“A semi-colon 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.”

The Semicolon Tattoo Project is a small part of this larger movement; by choosing the semicolon as a tattoo (in any variation) you are uniting yourself with others who are struggling with mental illness and addiction.  The tattoo is a visible sign that one must never lose hope and that they are never alone,

In Canada alone, one in five Canadians experience or will experience, mental illness or addiction, and the numbers show that this one in five will more likely than not, occur between the ages of 15 and 24.  The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) maintains that those who suffer from mental illnesses are twice as likely to suffer from substance abuse furthermore, those with addiction issues are three times more likely to suffer from mental illness.  It is evident that there is an undeniable relationship between mental illness and addictions.  Unfortunately very few get the attention and the help they need largely because of the social stigma attached to mental illness and addiction.

It is sad to see that while our society has evolved and has become accepting in other areas we remain quite backward in the area of mental illness and addiction, most of us believing that these are chosen destructive behaviours.  It has been proven time and time again, that addiction and mental illness are diseases very much like high blood pressure, diabetes and cancer and yet, sufferers are hesitant to tell their friends, family, and co-workers that they are struggling with these issues.  This not only takes a toll on the sufferer but on our society as a whole.  Unchecked addiction and mental illness, carries a greater monetary burden on society than any other disease, infectious or otherwise.  Mental illness costs Canadians, $51 billion a year in health costs and lost productivity; while in Ontario alone alcohol related addiction costs $5.3 billion.  These numbers are staggering, and can be easily decreased when we as a society remove the stigma attached to mental illness and addiction.

There is hope however with movements such as the Semicolon Tattoo Project; if tattoos which were once associated with the lowest elements of society can evolve and be accepted then, perhaps the acceptance of mental illness and addiction is not too far away.

If you are ready to share your story we are here to listen email us at

Be Well

Oasis Movement  ;


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