The Semicolon Project

Tattoos which have an inspiring message about mental illness? Hmmm. I was dubious.  But, what the hell, thought I would take a look anyhoo.

A Semicolon represents a sentence the author could have ended, but chose not to. That author is you and the sentence is your life.

Semicolon tattoos have now become an ongoing awareness campaign that seeks to engage communities in suicide prevention and mental health awareness.

Semi COlon4

The Semicolon Project is for everyone who  self-harms, is suicidal, depressed, has anxiety, is unhappy, going through a broken heart, or just lost a loved one, Draw a semicolon on your wrist.

In 2013 The Semicolon Project was founded to inspire and provide a public awareness towards Mental Health. Project Semicolon Founder, Amy Bleuel wanted to honor her father whom she lost to suicide. Through the semicolon symbol many related to the struggle of depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide and their will to continue on. The title, “Project Semicolon,” also represented a goal – to believe that this is not the end but a new beginning.

Over the years Project Semicolon has become much more than just one person honoring a parent. Through musician support and social media, the message of hope and love has reached a big audience in many different countries.

By writing a semicolon on your wrist, you are making a promise to yourself that it is ok to reach out and seek for help.

It is a statement. A sign of solidarity. It is a conversation starter. A movement of empowerment. It is a symbol that says “Stigma, we are coming for you.” Quite frankly I may have just found my next tattoo.

Join the fight and stand up for YOU or anyone you know who has depression, anxiety, has self harmed or has contemplated suicide and help our peers, our friends and our family know that we speak up for them and that we stand up against Mental Health and the stigma that’s attached to it.

Together, we can save a life.

STAY STRONG; LOVE ENDLESSLY; CHANGE LIVES

Further Links

A Letter of Love

Suicide is complex. It usually occurs gradually, progressing from suicidal thoughts, to planning, to attempting suicide and finally dying by suicide.

Source: International Association for Suicide Prevention

Suicide remains a major gender and social inequality and is a devastating event for families and communities. There were 6,708 suicides in the UK and ROI in 2013. In 2013 22% of contacts with Samaritans UK (more than 600,000) involved individuals expressing suicidal feelings

We can choose to stand together in the face of a society which may often feel like a lonely and disconnected place, and we can choose to make a difference by making lives more liveable for those who struggle to cope. We believe we can do this because we know that people and organisations are stronger together.  ~ The Samaritans: Working together to reduce suicide 2015-21

The male suicide rate is the highest since 2001. The suicide rate  among men aged 45-59, 25.1 per 100,000, is the highest for this group since 1981.

Just over a month ago Poorna Bell, Executive Editor of the Huffington Post UK, lost her husband to suicide. This is her letter to him.

In the end, there really is only room for love.

My dear husband,

It has been nearly 30 days since you held the spark of your life between your hands and pressed them shut.

Since then, I have been trying to make sense of the world.

In Hinduism – a religion you wholeheartedly set about getting to know even though I had long lost my faith – we have an 11-day ceremony and a 30-day ceremony.

I’ve never understood what these were for. But perhaps they are to mark a set of realisations.

By 11 days, I was aware that your death had made me a different person.

Everything looked, smelled and tasted different. People that I had known for years now seemed like strangers in the midst of what I felt, and what I thought they could not possibly know about.

I saw you in everything. I saw you in the sea, imagining you in the shift, turn and swirl of water. I saw you at your graveside, in the freesias you so loved. I saw you in the birds you had encyclopaedic knowledge about, in the double rainbows that lit the sky the day we said goodbye to you.

You were a big, Kiwi man in real life, and yet I saw you in the most delicate of things.

I wondered about whether to write this to you, in such a public way. But I think considering how much we talked over the last year about mental illness and how strongly we felt that not talking about it in society contributed to the sense of shame and stigma that surrounds it, I know you’d want me to do this. (I find myself doing that a lot: ‘I’m sure Rob would want me to eat that extra bar of chocolate’ and other such important life decisions).

I know it because you felt very strongly about my ability to bang a big drum to raise awareness around depression – an illness that you battled with all of your life.

I know you wanted me to speak up, so that if anyone else needed a friend or someone to talk to, and was going through the same struggles as you, I’d be able to help them. Privately or publicly.

I know we both felt greatly that the silence around mental illness created such a toxic environment for men, who were expected to – in your words – ‘man up, suffer in silence and get on with it’.

There is a lot I have discovered since you took your own life.

Firstly, while there is no hierarchy of death where one is better than the other, it’s safe to say that living a long life is at the top while a short one is at the bottom. I don’t know where suicide sits, but it’s safe to say, it makes other people REALLY uncomfortable.

I was advised against telling people how you died. And in the initial bizarreness of picking your burial plot and coffin (and being asked whether Robert was an eco-friendly man), I erred on the side of caution.

But by this 30th day, I have realised when the worst, most devastating thing possible happens, you lose the energy to maintain any artifice.

There is also an indignance that rises in me. If you had died of cancer, would I have kept your death or the circumstances a secret? Of course not. There would have been fun runs and cupcakes to kick cancer’s ass.

It was as if the method of your death implied weakness, when I know how hard you fought to stay in this world.

Despite the hand you were dealt, you achieved so much, you loved so deeply, you were gentle and kind and would help anyone who was struggling (even the homeless guy at our local bus shelter who you wanted to let stay on our couch), and you were also the most intelligent man I met – why would I not want to honour that?

And perhaps this speaks volumes about the mountain we have to climb in getting people to understand that mental illness is exactly the same as cancer. It is exactly the same as a cardiac arrest. No amount of love, medical care or money can help prevent it if it’s terminal.

When someone dies from suicide, there is anger directed at the person in a way it isn’t with physical illness. No one goes: “Oh, I can’t BELIEVE Larry died of cancer, how could he?”

In the aftermath, a lot of people have said to me: “I’m angry at him”. There was a lot of that floating around: how you made that choice and left us mired in such deep grief. There was anger at the life you had given up and the people you had left behind.

And perhaps while this is a completely natural reaction – and I certainly thought ‘How could you do this to me?’ in the first couple of days after your death, I think after a while, we must remember your best, brightest parts.

I’m not saying I have it figured out. I don’t know that I will ever fully understand your decision to end your life.

When I finally mustered up the courage to place my hand on your chest one last time, and I felt how cold you were, your soul evaporated, your eyes never to open again, I understood the finality of it. I understood that any idiot can create life – an episode of 16 and Pregnant will tell you that – but once given, it is a gift and a precious one at that.

I think the anger comes from not knowing we were on rations. It is fuelled by the guilt we all felt.

We should have hugged you more, spent time with you, memorised every part of you, told you we loved you – had just one more day with you – because deep down, we feel that if we did that, you wouldn’t have killed yourself.

The point I am trying to make is that I get it. With suicide, what feels like a choice to other people was not a choice for you. Our love – and you had an ocean of people who felt that way about you – was not going to anchor you to this world when you felt there was no possibility, no hope.

As I write this, there are plenty of people who feel like that. Some of them will not make that terrible, final choice, and some of them will. And although I don’t have the answers yet (maybe in another 30 days), I do know that we must talk about it.

We must make it easier for people to reach out when the blackness threatens to swallow them whole. We must give men the space, voice and understanding to be scared and vulnerable and not see it as weakness. We must say that mental health desperately needs funding, that it should be as top a priority as tackling obesity or cancer.

I’m not saying any of these things would have saved you. But I am saying that I refuse to remember you in anger and shame, when what we had was immense love.

poorna

For Robert Owen Bell, 23 December 1975 – 28 May 2015

If you need help, there is The Samaritans whose helpline is 08457 90 90 90. [UK]

Read the original article here

Animals and Nature Rock ~ Happy Summer Days

Project 1 in 4

1 in 4 of us, on both sides of the Atlantic, live with mental illness. Fact.

Despite this statistic mental illness is still incredibly stigmatized.

Because banishing the stigma of mental illness starts with awareness, and awareness begins with education, mindfulness and empathy.

What has been most shocking to me is the more I talk about mental health, it seems everyone can relate to the topic, yet so few are talking about it.

The question is, how can stigma be broken down effectively. In all likelihood there is not just one way. After all, if you haven’t experienced it how can you possibly be expected to understand what the reality of living with mental illness is really like.

Organisations like Time to Change actively try to educate using the words of those who have experienced it first hand. People like me willing to share their stories to break down misconceptions. One such person is artist Marissa Betley who has taken a fresh approach in addressing the daily struggles faced by people living with mental illness through thought-provoking illustrations.

I thought, if I could just find a real human way to raise greater awareness then maybe I could help break down the stigmas surrounding mental illness that are preventing people from getting the help they need. Maybe the project could even save lives.

Further to conducting interviews with people diagnosed with a range of disorders Marissa is raising awareness for mental health issues with the creation of Project 1 in 4. For 100 days Marissa has been illustrating what it is like to live with mental illness.

Each story has been unique and I have been incredibly inspired by the constant thread of courageousness and bravery showcased by everyone I have interviewed.

Nobody deserves to suffer like this, let alone in silence.

Marissa’s images pack a punch and for those of us in the know are easy to relate to. This is Me:

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I’ve seen first hand how serious and debilitating these illnesses can be. They can be remarkably devastating. While professional help is key, what’s equally important is unwavering support from family and friends.

If you can relate then never forget you are not alone. If you are reading this and have never experienced any form of mental illness then please remember;

[We] are your family members, your friends, your co-workers and your neighbors. Love and support makes all the difference.

Thank you

#The100DayProject

Further Links
Website
Instagram
Twitter

4in1

Let’s talk… Indieberries, Creativity and Love with Che Dyer

A while ago the awesome Kim Ingleby introduced me to Indieberries. It was love. Filled with sparkly cuteness, creativity and giggles I can not believe I waited so long to introduce you. Tut tut me.

I’m going to keep this intro short and sweet and share with you one of my favourite quotes which perfectly sums up how Indieberries leaves me feeling.

If you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely. ~ Roald Dahl

Meet Che Dyer.

che dyer

How has your own personal journey influenced your work and life choices?

My personal journey has had a huge impact on the work that I do and the things that I create. Even in a very literal sense the products that I create are so closely matched to what is happening in my life at that specific time. The direction of my business is very strongly influenced by where I am in my life- which I think is a good thing as it helps to keep everything really authentic to me.

Just after we had gotten married, I was focusing quite a lot on creating bespoke wedding guestbooks since I had created this particular type of guestbook for our own wedding and then began receiving requests for them!

My stationery products and greeting card range are now shifting to a very “yogi” theme- which ties in with recently completing my yoga teaching training and I’m really excited about where it is all going!

What inspired you to create Indieberries and how did you get started?

I started indieBerries when I was living in South Korea teaching english. I had so many creative ideas and funny stories* about my time in Korea that I wanted to share with everyone. Having always been into journaling it felt like a “digital journal” was the next step! (funny story). I began on blogspot since it was the easiest platform to manage and figured out everything myself with many hours of late night googling!

What influences your creations?

I draw inspiration from my own life as well as the every day lives of others. I try looking at ordinary things in a slightly new or fresh way. I love picking up conversations I overhear at bus stops, watching people in restaurants or even just observing people in the tube!

I have a very wild imagination and I’m often asking myself very peculiar questions like, “If this fridge could talk, what would it say?” – more often than not, those answers can provide very comical scenarios!

Tell us your love story.

It’s a LONG (slightly obscure) story! haha :) Warren and I met and dated at university (in South Africa) for about 8 months, then he finished his degree and headed over to London. I had two more years at university remaining, so we mutually decided to call it quits. We still kept in touch as friends (and the introduction of Facebook made stalking all that much easier!). After I finished my degree, I headed to South Korea to teach english – where I spent the next three and a half years. During this time, although Warren and I were both dating other people, we still kept in touch via email (and sometimes even the old school snail-mail way!).

Towards the end of my time in Korea, Warren and I decided that we needed to make a plan to see each other again and figure out what is going on, because WHY are we still talking to each other after all this time?! So, I flew to London to visit him for 2 weeks and in that trip, we both just knew. In fact there was a moment on the very last day of my trip, when Warren was seeing me off, and he was waiting on a train platform at Clapham Junction – I saw him standing in the one single patch of sunshine and something very quiet inside my head thought, “I’m going to marry this guy”.

I flew back to Korea and finished the last few weeks of my teaching contract. I then flew back home to South Africa and two months later Warren flew out to South Africa and proposed. You can read the full story here!

What are your key pieces of advice to anyone wishing to start blogging?

Stay authentic to who YOU are – in that way you will attract the readers who are genuinely invested in what YOU have to say. The most interesting blogs to read are those that have a truly genuine voice – so stick to what feels good for YOU, don’t try and emulate anyone else. Play to your strengths, if you are a really talented photographer, then showcase your pictures, if you are a funny story teller then share some stories! If you are good with words then write, write write. Building up a strong readership takes time, but it will progress much quicker if you truly stick to who YOU are.

What does Holistic living mean to you?

Holistic living means taking care of your WHOLE self – your physical self, your emotional self and your spiritual self – whatever that means for you. I also believe that it means balance – so working hard to be the best you can be, but also not beating yourself up if you drink a bottle of wine and accidentally consume 6000 calories of chocolate (me, last weekend).

What is your message to cynics, sceptics, and the intrigued?

To the sceptics, just watch!
To the intrigued… come join!
To the cynics, here – have a hug.

Finally, what are your top five tips for self-love?

1. Move your body every day, yoga, running, pyjama dance parties, hop-scotch, whatever floats your boat.
2. Wake up and tell yourself how awesome you are. (Really).
3. GIVE OUT LOVE
4. Remember that other people’s opinions of you make absolutely NO difference to you. ROCK ON.
5. Every month do something that truly invests in yourself: a coffee date with yourself, buying a new inspirational book, taking yourself off for a pedicure! Whatever it is, book a date with yourself and cherish it.

Further Links