Sadly, Bleuel lost her own battle with depression last Thursday, March 23. She was 31.
In 2015, Bleuel told The Mighty in an interview, “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 hope shared by Project Semicolon’s founder is captured by the organization’s reminder, “Your story isn’t over.” The semicolon represents the continuation of your life after struggling with thoughts of suicide and death, which are a common component of clinical depression.
Bleuel hailed from Green Bay, Wisconsin, and started Semicolon Project in 2013, as a faith-based nonprofit organization. Its mission is to inspire and encourage people who live with mental health concerns, fostering hope and empowerment. The project was a strong testament to the significant impact a single person with vision and hope can have on others.
Bleuel’s own battle with depression began at an early age, when she was 8 years old, and included grappling with anxiety and self-harm. In addition to depression, she also lived through sexual assault and abuse growing up, contributing to a life-long battle with clinical depression.
As she wrote on the Project Semicolon website:
“Despite the wounds of a dark past I was able to rise from the ashes, proving that the best is yet to come. When my life was filled with the pain of rejection, bullying, suicide, self-injury, addiction, abuse and even rape, I kept on fighting. I didn’t have a lot of people in my corner, but the ones I did have kept me going. In my 20 years of personally struggling with mental health I experienced many stigmas associated with it. Through the pain came inspiration and a deeper love for others. God wants us to love one another despite the label we wear. I do pray my story inspires others. Please remember there is hope for a better tomorrow.”
As a part of the project’s goal to help raise awareness of mental health concerns, people draw or tattoo semicolons on their bodies as a reminder to themselves (and a sign to others) that their story isn’t yet over. Since its inception, thousands of people around the world have donned a semicolon in support of the project.
From her obituary:
Amy graduated from Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in December 2014 where she earned a degree in graphic design and a certificate in printing. Amy founded Project Semicolon. Her work following graduation was centered on raising awareness of mental illness and suicide prevention. She gave presentations on behalf of the Project to groups throughout the country.
Amy loved to travel. She and her husband especially enjoyed photography and photographing their many adventures together. She was an active member of Spring Lake Church in Green Bay.
Amy Bleuel, Founder of Project Semicolon, Passes Away at 314
Amy Bleuel, known in the mental health community as the person behind the popular semicolon tattoo, passed away on Thursday, March 23 at the age of 31, Project Semicolon confirmed to The Mighty on Wednesday.
Update March 30 8:45 a.m. PST: The Mighty has confirmed Amy died by suicide. Please when reporting on this story, refer to Recommendations for Reporting on Suicide. For whoever needs help right now, you can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741, or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.3451
If you see a semicolon as more than just punctuation, you probably know Amy. Her movement, called Project Semicolon, is a global nonprofit dedicated to presenting hope and love for those who are struggling with mental illness, suicide, addiction and self-injury.
She told The Mighty in 2015, “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.”13
The semicolon manifested in both drawings and tattoos and quickly became a sign of hope for those who struggled with self-harm and suicidal thoughts.
AMY BLEUEL (1985 - 2017)
Amy Bleuel, the founder of the suicide prevention organization Project Semicolon, died by suicide March 23, 2017. She was 31.
Bleuel, a Wisconsin native who fought bravely through her life to overcome mental health challenges, founded Project Semicolon in 2013. It represented her resolution to travel a path of help and healing after a young life that she described in her writing as traumatically painful: physical and emotional abuse from the age of 6, sexual assault at 13, the suicide of her father when she was 18.
“I kept on fighting,” she wrote in a short bio at the Project Semicolon website. “I didn’t have a lot of people in my corner, but the ones I did have kept me going. In my 20 years of personally struggling with mental health, I experienced many stigmas associated with it. Through the pain came inspiration and a deeper love for others. … Please remember there is hope for a better tomorrow.”
Project Semicolon, which seeks to inspire people in their personal struggles to continue living, takes its name from the idea that a semicolon is a punctuation mark that means a sentence isn’t over yet — that there’s still more to come, that every moment offers the possibility of a new beginning.
The initiative has reached thousands over the past four years. More than 238,000 people follow Project Semicolon on Facebook. Many of them have shared photos of the semicolon designs they’ve had tattooed onto their skin as inspirational reminders. A book by Bleuel collecting dozens of portraits of “heartfelt, unflinchingly honest, and eternally hopeful” lives is currently scheduled to publish in September 2017 from HarperCollins.
At the website TheMighty.com, writer Sarah Schuster spoke forthrightly in the wake of Bleuel’s death to comfort members of the mental health community.
“I wanted to acknowledge the complexity of Amy’s death. I wanted people who feel hopeless right now to know we understand how much this sucks,” Schuster wrote. “But we will tell you in no way does this taint the amazing work Amy did. It doesn’t make your semicolon tattoo have less meaning… We keep going. We keep spreading hope. We work harder.”
If someone you know exhibits warning signs of suicide, he or she should not be left alone. Call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255. The Lifeline provides free, confidential support for people in crisis or emotional distress, 24/7 year-round. The Lifeline also offers an online chat for people who prefer to reach out online rather than by phone.