A Small Symbol with Huge Meaning: The Semicolon.
Since their inception, tattoos have been used to manifest love, faith, culture, and beliefs. Some are purely decorative works of art, others augment or reflect the identity of the wearer. However, some of the most personally significant works of art are the ones that represent something symbolic. These are the tattoos that tell a story, and the semicolon speaks volumes.
The Semicolon Project
“A semicolon is used when an author could’ve chosen to end a sentence, but chose not to. The author is you, and the sentence is your life.”
These are the words of Amy Bleuel, the founder of the Semicolon Project. The Semicolon Project is a movement started by Amy in 2013 that is dedicated to the prevention and public awareness of suicide.
Today, the Semicolon Project has grown into a global nonprofit organization that uses its public health model to offer resources and advocate for mental health awareness. To date, the Semicolon Project has helped over 5 million individuals with challenges including self-esteem and body image issues, addiction, questions of gender identity, coping, and teen challenges.
We live in a society of interconnectedness made possible through social media. Anyone with a smartphone has a platform to highlight the best moments in life: their achievements, wealth, status, and everything that comes along with such things. Amy used these social platforms to encourage vulnerability so that others would know they are not alone in fighting their battles. With this subtle symbol, people have marked their body as a reminder and testimony that they are the authors of their life, and that they hold the power in changing their story.
Suicide prevention and mental health have been a hot button topic, partially due to the frequency of celebrity suicides throughout 2018. Popular Swedish EDM producer and DJ, Tim “Avicii” Bergling died on April 20th from an apparent suicide. Only a few months later in June, we learned of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain passing within 3 days of each other. Rick “Zombie Boy” Genest, who rose to popularity after being featured in Lady Gaga’s Born This Way music video, passed most recently on August 1st.
Although suicide prevention has gotten greater attention over the years, it is still a pervasive issue communities are struggling with. Depression remains the key contributing factor associated with suicide.
Organizations like the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention are doing their part to raise awareness and offer resources to those who have been impacted by a suicide. Whether you have lost someone you love to suicide, or are concerned someone you know may take their own life, or if you or someone close to you has made an attempt, the AFSP can connect you with emergency resources.
Chronic Pain, Mental Health, and Opioid Medication
For individuals living with a chronic pain condition, it is not uncommon for a psychological disorder to be present. The physical pain itself is an influential component of depression, but so is the trauma and social/spiritual isolation that often accompany a chronic pain condition.
Most pain patients are only offered resources to help manage the biomedical symptoms of their condition. This comes in the form of medications, injections, and sometimes physical therapy. Our current medical model does not proactively address how pain can negatively impact one’s mental health.
Reliance on opioid medication as an exclusive pain management tool can become problematic to one’s mental health. Prolonged use of these medications increases the risk of developing chemical dependence and/or an addictive disorder, an additional factor that increases an individual’s risk for suicide. Furthermore, prolonged exposure to opioids increases their potential to impact cognitive function and healthy emotional regulation. We have found this to be true especially with the military veterans returning home from war with significant physical and psychological trauma, as well as PTSD.
To read more about how the opioid epidemic has contributed to suicides in chronic pain patients, click here.
A Personal Experience With Suicide
While suicide may seem relatively uncommon, global statistics from the World Health Organization shows 1 person takes their life every 40 seconds. This amounts to 800,000 premature deaths each year. Suicide and suicide prevention are most notably featured in media headlines when a celebrity has taken their own life, but suicide has likely directly or indirectly impacted someone close to you. Even with our (relatively) small team here at A Healing Place, a number of our team members have indirectly been affected by suicide or attempted suicide. Dr. Stephen Grinstead, Chief Clinical Officer here at A Healing Place, was personally affected by the loss of his brother, and wanted to share his story:
Trigger Warning! Raw and personal story.
“In 1976 my 21-year-old younger brother Greg committed suicide. Wow! What memories thinking about that brings up for me. I still remember being awakened by the Pueblo Police Department in the middle of the night and told I needed to come with them and make a positive identification on my brother’s body. I was in shock and total denial because I had been with my brother the evening before. My whole family was in denial (and many still are) and thought it was an accidental gun shot that killed him. The denial helped my family cope. It was suicide with the gun still being in his mouth when I identified his body. It turned out his fiancé who was pregnant broke up with him after we had met and he went home turned on Linda Ronstadt’s Blue Bayou, got drunk and ended his short life. His Blood Alcohol Content was 0.42 – most people die before they can get that high but Greg, like many in my family, was an alcoholic. I still cry when I hear that song and my family still grieves to this day.”
Help is Here
Here at A Healing Place – The Estates, we understand that addressing psychological disorders is imperative to not only treating depression, but also in helping patients manage their chronic pain without reliance on opioid medication. If you or a loved one is ready to end the struggle with opioid dependence and wish to achieve freedom from suffering, contact our compassionate staff to learn more about how A Healing Place can serve you. 844-388-4100×6.
If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or is having thoughts of suicide, do not hesitate to contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.