The Semicolon As Anti-Suicide Symbol

by Bill Brenner on April 1, 2014

I’ve never been a fan of the semicolon. I always identify it as punctuation used by people clinically incapable of writing the short, crisp sentences I prefer. Who knew it would become a symbol of hope — a battle cry to resist suicidal thoughts and get on with life.

Mood music:

That’s the mission of The Semicolon Project: to turn a piece of punctuation into something new and powerful. A Tumblr blog explains:

The semicolon is used when a sentence could have ended, but didn’t. The movement is for anyone who has ever self-harmed, has a personality disorder, or has tried to commit suicide. The semicolon is a sign of hope. Your sentence is not over yet. If you have ever harmed yourself, attempted suicide, or just want to support the cause, put a semicolon on your wrist or wherever you feel would mean the most. Every time you see it, think of something that makes life worth living.

The movement appears to be catching on, with people even getting the punctuation mark tattooed to wrists and other body parts.

I believe in symbols. They are no replacement for therapy and, as needed, medication. But symbols do something just as important, if not more so: They give the suffer something positive to fixate on, shapes that are as powerful as entire sentences and songs. When life kicks you in the nuts, the right symbolic image seared into the brain can steer you back toward the will to live.

For myself, the Superman S has always been a powerful symbol. The image has surfaced in my mind’s eye whenever I’ve reached low points and realized it was time for a turnaround. I love how, in last year’s Man of Steel movie, Jor-El specifically describes it as the symbol of hope.

But as symbols go, this semicolon idea is growing on me. And I only heard about it a couple days ago.

So here it is, the image to picture when you are at your lowest. May it inspire you to keep your sentence moving.


{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Susanna April 13, 2014 at 8:20 am

I love this. True, I’m a semicolon junkie from way back, but this is a new way to look at semis — a new way that’s altogether consistent with my old way.

Most of the semicolon-haters I know favor short sentences. Commas and periods are enough for them, unless they’re faced with an internally punctuated series. I like short sentences too, but sometimes they’re too staccato. Often I’m faced with two sentences that could be separate, or they could be joined, with a semi, an em dash, or a colon. Each mark shapes the words differently, and I want all of them in my toolkit.

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