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by Michelle Lozano, AMFT

Today, September 10, marks Global Suicide Prevention Day, with the month September being recognized as National Suicide Prevention Month. As a growing pandemic and public health crisis, suicide ranked 10th in leading causes of death overall in the U.S. in 2017, claiming more than 47,000 lives, and 800,000+ globally according to the CDC. Over 121 individuals complete suicide on a daily basis. 

In recognition of a need for a greater support network in the community, Project Semicolon was born. Founded in 2013, their belief is that “suicide prevention is the collective responsibility of each and every person on the planet,” and has gained media attention and popularity globally. Their concept is that with a tattoo of a simple and bolded semicolon (;), individuals can demonstrate their solidarity for those living with mental illness, a suicide attempt or the death of someone from suicide. The punctuation mark of a semicolon symbolized in punctuation when an author could’ve chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to. 

A Chicago-based non-profit organization, Hope for the Day also achieves proactive suicide prevention through outreach and mental health education. Their slogan, which you may have recognized on wristbands and buttons at music and art festivals across the country, is “It’s OK Not to be OK.” HFTD partnered with Chicago tattoo studio Insight Studios, where one can receive the semicolon tattoo for a donation of $60 to HFTD’s efforts. 

Executive Assistant to the founder of Hope for the Day, Becca Milligan shares, “We have so many incredible partnerships with different groups around the country, and having Insight Studios offer a constant reminder that your story doesn’t end here, is just another way we’re spreading the message that it’s ok not to be ok - in any way we can.” 

Talking with those effected by suicide is important, and so is the vocabulary used when in these conversations. Some tips when speaking to a survivor, family member or friend of someone who died by suicide, or when speaking generally about suicide: avoid using the phrases “committed suicide,” and “killed themselves,” as these mimic the language used when referring to criminals and homicide offenders. The population we are talking about is suffering, more often than not clinically depressed. and their thinking can be negatively distorted. Instead, use “died by suicide,” or simply “passed on.” 

ADAA.org also offers resources for finding a therapist, education and webinars on depression and related topics. For those struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline (800-273-8255) and visit your nearest emergency room.