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Tattoo shop’s ‘Project Semicolon’ raises funds for mental health

WATCH ABOVE: Project Semicolon is making a permanent mark in Calgary. Jill Croteau reports.

CALGARY – A local tattoo shop has embraced a movement to create more awareness around mental illness with the use of a common symbol.

It’s called “Project Semicolon” and it’s a permanent, public way to deal with issues like depression.

“Your tattoo artist is like your therapist and you’re sitting hours with someone who is stabbing you repeatedly and as soon as initial puncture happens everything changes,” said Joy Nash, a tattoo artist, who’s struggled with depression since she was a teenager.

The semicolon is a punctuation mark that represents a continuation. Instead of using the period to end a sentence, it means the story isn’t over. Many with mental illness are marking themselves with this metaphor.

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“There’s more important things than escaping and leaving people behind that care about you there’s so many more important things than ending it,” said Brianna Young, who used a semicolon tattoo to cover her self-harming scar from a cigarette burn.

“There was a lot that surrounded my appearance: my weight and difficulty with my body, and it gets to the point you feel worthless and you don’t want to be part of the world anymore.”

Mental health workers say they’re encouraged the movement is removing the isolation around the illness.

“Some of the most comforting words in the English language are, ‘Me too’,” said Canadian Mental Health Association’s Joy Pavelich. “The semicolon is subtle. People see it, it’s not bold but it’s still making a statement.”

The symbol of solidarity has moved the Dusk Till Dawn Ink shop in Calgary to donate a portion of the proceeds from the semicolon tattoos to the Canadian Mental Health Association. The fundraiser is in effect from Thursday until July 30.

“A lot of our staff, they have mental issues,” said employee Matt Gorski. “A lot have issues—we all do. To be in this industry you have to have a different style; we wanted to do something for the community.”

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With files from Erika Tucker

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