The Impact of Amy Bleuel
Katessa Harkey
/ Categories: Taking Liberties

The Impact of Amy Bleuel

A Champion Passes

Activist and cultural icon Amy Bleuel passed away on March 23rd at age 31. The founder of Project Semicolon, Bleuel's work provided an outlet for expressions of hope and solidarity for those suffering from suicidal ideation, their loved ones, and allies. As this work has been significant to so many, her suicide has deeply impacted those to whom she has been an inspiration.
As noted by one commentator on the project's Facebook page:

“I am all tears this morning hearing of your passing. You helped me through my dads suicide 2 years ago and have been my rock. You would talk with me as if you had nothing else to do but heal my heart. It only makes us all wonder, where is the hope now? :( you have made such a huge impact on my life. What do we do now?”

The semicolon was chosen as a symbol of this important work, as “a semicolon 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 project, which Bleual founded in 2013, encourages drawing or tattooing the symbol on one's body, both to make the issue more visible and to let others dealing with suicidal thoughts know that they are not alone.

In her own words,

"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."

According to the most recent CDC numbers, suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States; yet it is the third leading cause of death among youths aged 10-24. CDC numbers indicate that More men than women die from suicide, at a ratio of 1.5. However, women are more likely to struggle with depression. Twelve percent of women will experience the symptoms of clinical depression at some point in their lives; while nearly 1 in 10 mothers will suffer from postpartum depression. Only about half of those struggling with depression will seek professional help for their symptoms.

Bleual's life was filled with tragedy and struggle. A survivor of childhood abuse, sexual trauma, rape, and miscarriage, there is little question as to the origins of her mental health difficulties. She founded the project in memory of her father, whom she lost to suicide in 2003. The primary goal of the organization is to encourage those suffering to seek the help they so desperately need.

Those in need of such assistance are encouraged to contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK. You may also text SEMI to 741-741 for free general crisis counseling via text.

The project's Facebook page has become a trove of stories shared by those who have struggled with depression and mental illness; as well as those who have lost loved ones to suicide. It is also used to share images of semicolon tattoos, which range from simple inconspicuous marks to highly creative artistic pieces incorporating the symbol. The project holds a weekly drawing for a free semicolon tattoo. A collection of stories gathered in this manner entitled “Project Semicolon: Your Story Isn't Over” is slated for release by HarperCollins in September of 2017.

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