Content Warning: This piece contains mentions of suicide and suicidal ideation.
The Active Minds community is so saddened to hear of Amy Bleuel’s death.
Four years ago, Amy, the founder of Project Semicolon, posted a note on social media encouraging anyone who is depressed, unhappy, has anxiety, or is suicidal to draw a semicolon on their wrist. She wrote, “A semicolon represents a sentence the author could’ve ended but chose not to.”
It became a poignant and powerful symbol of choosing to go on. Whether as a tattoo or drawn on, the semicolon is visible and it acknowledges and celebrates a struggle and a decision that is often hidden from view.
As Amy wrote, “Your story isn’t over.”
Amy’s vision was embraced by hundreds of thousands of college students. Many Active Minds chapters each year reach out to their peers on campus with events and activities based on Project Semicolon.
Last fall, for example, the Active Minds chapter at UCLA launched a semicolon photo campaign. “The people in this campaign were asked to speak about their history with depression and incorporate a semi-colon into words that meant a lot to them,” said Brooke Alexander, chapter co-president. “We took the photos on campus and they were featured on our Facebook page.”
The photo above was graciously provided by student Courtney Cruz. You can read below her words, explaining what the semicolon means to her as she supports a close friend dealing with depression and suicide ideation.
Thank you, Amy Bleuel. You gave the world a powerful symbol of hope and a way to make our struggles and successes visible and connected to each other. Gone too soon, you will continue to influence our work to bring the conversation about mental health out of the shadows for all to see.
Please take care. If you or a friend are struggling, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “BRAVE” to 741-741 to reach the Crisis Text Line. Both are available 24/7.
During my second year at UCLA, I almost lost my dear friend to suicide.
“After going through a difficult situation, her depression manifested itself in suicide ideation, attempting to convince her that suicide was her only way out. She wrote a letter to me asking how does someone know if they have depression and describing her want to harm herself. Unfortunately, I did not see the letter before her attempt, but a few months after, she had the courage to tell me about the letter. In tears, she said that it was because of our friendship and the joy I’ve shown her, that she found the strength to not go through with suicide.
“That day, I vowed to her that she would not go through this alone. Using the lyrics to the song, “Sea of Lovers” she was for the first time able to explain what depression felt like to her. Within the song, the lyrics “bring me home” is in the chorus. Instantly, I told her I was going to get that line tattooed in the same area she presently has a scar from her attempt, to show her I am here for her always.
“As well versed and educated as I am in mental illness, nothing can prepare you to see someone you love not look like themselves anymore. Depression comes at 4am when the tears are falling and she needs a friend; when she feels nothing, everything, and happiness is a dead end. I have stayed up all night, good days and bad, been the strength when she had none, spent hours talking and piecing back the days she can no longer remember.
“Through an uphill battle and various obstacles, she is now managing her depression through therapy and talking to me. Seeing her battle against depression has ultimately redefined my definition of the word “strength.” She is the reason I am so passionate and have been honored to be a part of Active Minds, as Education Co-Director for 2 years.
“Her dedication to bettering herself and beating depression is the very reason I am dedicated to educating, serving, and protecting others who may feel they do not have a voice. Through education, I firmly believe we all have the ability to help someone. Depression is a word, but so is Love.
“A semicolon signifies the author’s choice to continue his or her story. To my friend: keep writing your story and I will be right beside you—when you believe you cannot write anymore, I will pick up the pen and help you. Remember, I will bring you home; This is for you 💚
— by Courtney Cruz
Photograph by Sana Mahajan