When the news broke on June 5th that famous designer Kate Spade had committed suicide–and then again on June 8th when it was announced that Anthony Bourdain had also committed suicide–the whole world took a collective gasp. They were both visionaries, creating wonderful things for millions to enjoy, so how could it be possible that they felt so much pain and sadness–but barely anyone knew of their struggles?
As we wrote a couple weeks ago when the devastating news about Spade was released, depression is often invisible. Even successful, supposedly “thriving” people struggle. We have to remember that it's okay to not be okay. Especially as women, we often feel the need to put our problems aside and put others before ourselves. But it's crucial to remember that your mental health is of utmost importance. You matter, every single inch of you. This is a cliche, I know, but it’s often the “happiest” people who are the saddest. Depression can sneak its way into the lives of those we love, so instead of getting angry and shaming those who are suffering, we must show compassion and kindness. The stigma surrounding mental illness of any kind is brutal, and it prevents people around us from speaking up.
Writing about mental health, especially in the wake of these public suicides, always brings me back to the Project Semicolon (;). Project Semicolon, if you aren’t familiar with it, operates under the idea that suicide is preventable, and through collective action, we can end it. It began in 2013, when founder Amy Bleuel wanted to honor her father’s passing after he died from suicide. She settled on the semicolon as an emblem of sorts, a symbol that is now well known not only in the mental health community, but other communities too (you’ve probably seen the little tattoos on Tumblr or Pinterest). Sadly, Amy herself lost a battle with depression last March, but her legacy carries on.
The tiny tattoos aren’t just part of another silly pop culture trend–these symbols are powerful. As the website states, “A semicolon represents a sentence the author could have ended, but chose not to. The sentence is your life and the author is you.” Having the tattoo signifies strength, resilience, and most importantly, perseverance. Project Semicolon celebrates the biggest victory of all: you are still here, living and breathing and carrying on, and that’s something to be proud of. It is important to keep this powerful message alive, so that others can be informed and maybe even be inspired to embark on a journey like this, too. Every single one of us deserves a life of love and laughter, and with each new semicolon tattoo comes a brand new spark of hope.
We at Social Sunday know that getting help and talking can be the hardest things in the world, but we encourage you to speak up, even if it’s a small conversation with a friend, because we all have to start somewhere. As a survivor myself, I wouldn’t be here today if I didn’t open myself up and start taking smalls steps in the right direction. It’s hard, I know, and really really really terrifying. But I promise that the people in your life love you and want the best for you. Your life matters, and your story definitely isn’t over yet. I’m so lucky to have a rock-solid support system that picks me up when I fall. More than anything, these people continue to lift me up, whether it’s a Snapchat from across the sea or a call from my best friend who is miles and miles away.
You are loved more than you know. Mental illness is tough, but you’re tougher. Keep moving forward.
To learn more about Project Semicolon or make a donation, check out their website here.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number is 1-800-273-8255.