HomeNewsCommentariesDisplay

My experience with Project Semicolon

MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. -- As I was preparing to write an article about suicide prevention, my supervisor came back from the holiday weekend and showed me a new tattoo.

It was a semicolon. Yes, the punctuation.

I asked her why a semicolon? I have a few tattoos myself, but I didn't understand why she would get that.

She told me, "to Google project semicolon." So I did.

It turns out the semicolon tattoo began as a movement on social media "dedicated to presenting hope and love to those who are struggling with depression, suicide, addiction and self-injury."

In essence, and with the symbolism of the semicolon, the movement brings awareness to mental health concerns and the importance of suicide prevention.

Amy Bleuel started the nonprofit in April 2013 to honor her father, who took his own life.

According to mission statement, Project Semicolon's goal is to encourage individuals to draw or tattoo a semicolon on themselves as a sign of solidarity and understanding; that mental health issues are not in control and that you can have a wonderful life.

The idea of the semicolon in writing is that when the author could have ended a sentence with a period, they instead chose to use a semicolon and continue with a thought.

According to Project Semicolon's website the author is you, and the sentence is your life.

The semicolon can represent a point in an person's journey when they may be experiencing a serious mental health challenge like depression, and a life could have been lost, but instead they chose to fight, to continue their story, and sometimes against all odds, to live.

The project hopes for you to see that mental health issues will not stop you from living out your life or story.

The movement meant enough to my colleague that she got a semicolon tattooed on her forearm, and wrote a blog post about her own personal struggles.

In her post she explained how depression and anxiety affected her, and how once because it was so tough, that she had to leave a job she loved to take care of herself.

As I read more, and talked to my colleague more, I found myself identifying with this movement.

I am one of those folks that suffer from depression and anxiety, and I have since I was a child after a traumatic event.

It wasn't until I had spent a decade in the U.S. Air Force that I realized that I needed help.

But in 1989, it was still taboo to go to mental health, and the worries and concerns overwhelming. Would I lose my clearance? Would I not make rank? Would my peers and supervisors think I was no longer credible?

Luckily I had an awesome supervisor who put my fears in perspective and encouraged me to be courageous and get professional help, which I did.

I still get professional help to maintain mental wellness, and I find some days are harder than others, and sometimes there are experiences I go through that I would rather not.

Lately, personally, I have more downs than ups, but I've been through this before and know that with the help of my support team I will make it through.

For those who experience any form of depression, and have a bad day, week, month, etc., I am here to say there is light at the end of the tunnel and there is respite when you get there.

Having a real support team, folks who are in your corner, will truly make a difference.

I have taken my own challenges, created my own support team and written my own story.

As a survivor, I decided I wanted to be one of those people who support people having a rough time. I developed myself into a violence prevention educator and I work as a civilian for the U.S. Air Force at Malmstrom Air Force Base.

Things have really changed for people since the 1990s, and I am proud that the U.S. Air Force is recognizing the need to be upfront about mental health issues to include suicide and all forms of interpersonal violence.

I have decided that I will get another tattoo, that of the semicolon in solidarity of all the warriors, like myself and my colleague, who are out there.

There are a lot of resources to help us through trying times. If you find yourself in a situation where you think you are alone and have nowhere to go and no one to turn to, please know that you do. Like Project Semicolon says, your story isn't over.

For help resources, please see below:

Chaplain (non-duty hours) -- (406) 731-3801
Voice of Hope, Great Falls -- (406) 453-4357
Military One Source 24-7 -- 1-800-342-9647 Malmstrom AFB Mental Health Clinic -- (406) 731-4451
National Suicide Prevention Hotline -- 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Military One Source 24-7 -- 1-800-342-9647
Malmstrom AFB Military Child Life Consultant -- (406) 224-3813 (8 a.m. to 8 p.m.)
Malmstrom AFB Military Family Life Consultant -- (406) 750-8481/8061
Malmstrom AFB Sexual Assault Program Coordinator -- (406) 731-4225
Malmstrom AFB Family Advocacy -- (406) 731-2161
Malmstrom AFB Violence Prevention -- (406) 731-1499

USAF Comments Policy
If you wish to comment, use the text box below. AF reserves the right to modify this policy at any time.

This is a moderated forum. That means all comments will be reviewed before posting. In addition, we expect that participants will treat each other, as well as our agency and our employees, with respect. We will not post comments that contain abusive or vulgar language, spam, hate speech, personal attacks, violate EEO policy, are offensive to other or similar content. We will not post comments that are spam, are clearly "off topic", promote services or products, infringe copyright protected material, or contain any links that don't contribute to the discussion. Comments that make unsupported accusations will also not be posted. The AF and the AF alone will make a determination as to which comments will be posted. Any references to commercial entities, products, services, or other non-governmental organizations or individuals that remain on the site are provided solely for the information of individuals using this page. These references are not intended to reflect the opinion of the AF, DoD, the United States, or its officers or employees concerning the significance, priority, or importance to be given the referenced entity, product, service, or organization. Such references are not an official or personal endorsement of any product, person, or service, and may not be quoted or reproduced for the purpose of stating or implying AF endorsement or approval of any product, person, or service.

Any comments that report criminal activity including: suicidal behaviour or sexual assault will be reported to appropriate authorities including OSI. This forum is not:

  • This forum is not to be used to report criminal activity. If you have information for law enforcement, please contact OSI or your local police agency.
  • Do not submit unsolicited proposals, or other business ideas or inquiries to this forum. This site is not to be used for contracting or commercial business.
  • This forum may not be used for the submission of any claim, demand, informal or formal complaint, or any other form of legal and/or administrative notice or process, or for the exhaustion of any legal and/or administrative remedy.

AF does not guarantee or warrant that any information posted by individuals on this forum is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. AF may not be able to verify, does not warrant or guarantee, and assumes no liability for anything posted on this website by any other person. AF does not endorse, support or otherwise promote any private or commercial entity or the information, products or services contained on those websites that may be reached through links on our website.

Members of the media are asked to send questions to the public affairs through their normal channels and to refrain from submitting questions here as comments. Reporter questions will not be posted. We recognize that the Web is a 24/7 medium, and your comments are welcome at any time. However, given the need to manage federal resources, moderating and posting of comments will occur during regular business hours Monday through Friday. Comments submitted after hours or on weekends will be read and posted as early as possible; in most cases, this means the next business day.

For the benefit of robust discussion, we ask that comments remain "on-topic." This means that comments will be posted only as it relates to the topic that is being discussed within the blog post. The views expressed on the site by non-federal commentators do not necessarily reflect the official views of the AF or the Federal Government.

To protect your own privacy and the privacy of others, please do not include personally identifiable information, such as name, Social Security number, DoD ID number, OSI Case number, phone numbers or email addresses in the body of your comment. If you do voluntarily include personally identifiable information in your comment, such as your name, that comment may or may not be posted on the page. If your comment is posted, your name will not be redacted or removed. In no circumstances will comments be posted that contain Social Security numbers, DoD ID numbers, OSI case numbers, addresses, email address or phone numbers. The default for the posting of comments is "anonymous", but if you opt not to, any information, including your login name, may be displayed on our site.

Thank you for taking the time to read this comment policy. We encourage your participation in our discussion and look forward to an active exchange of ideas.