By Jackie James

Have you ever noticed someone with a semicolon tattoo, necklace, or ring and thought, “Who loves punctuation that much?” While the semicolon is an important tool in writing, it has a deeper meaning for some, and has become a symbol for mental health awareness and suicide prevention. Why the semicolon? In writing, the semicolon is used to separate related clauses; in life, the semicolon represents a choice between a time when you thought about suicide and the choice to continue living, or, the rest of your story. In essence, the two related clauses of your life.

Being a teenager is challenging, and there are a great deal of emotions and situations that arise that you may not know how to handle. Oftentimes, hopelessness and despair seem to overwhelm you, and you may feel there is no way out. Add in depression, anxiety, substance abuse, relationship issues, and you may have a cocktail for disaster. However, before you decide to undertake a permanent solution to a temporary problem, consider the semicolon and the hope that it symbolizes. We all face scary situations and grief in life; without the bad we could not appreciate the good. It is how you handle the obstacles, the pain, that defines your character and who you are as a person. The semicolon reminds us all that while we may think the sentence has come to an end, there truly is a second half, if we just continue reading and the same is true with our lives. While suicide may seem like the only option, there are other ways to solve the issues that are plaguing us, and the choice to pursue one or more of these solutions lets the proverbial sentence come to its natural conclusion.

While it may seem decidedly old, there was once a radio program hosted by Paul Harvey called “The Rest of the Story”, and there’s a reason to mention it. On the show, Mr. Harvey would tell a story about a famous person, or a story you thought you knew because you had heard it a million times before. At the very end of the story, Mr. Harvey would spring the “rest of the story”, the unknown or forgotten details that truly put a twist to the story we thought we knew, only to be enlightened by the new, true ending. While suicide may seem like the logical conclusion, there is so much more to the rest of the story, if we only give it the chance.

If you feel overwhelmed and hopeless, seek help. It is available and there are people who understand exactly what you are going through and can put you on a different path. Listed below are some teen suicide hotlines:

(866) 488-7386 The Trevor Project for LGBTQ teens in crisis

602-248-Teen (8336) Teen Lifeline in Maricopa County

800 248-Teen (8336) Teen Lifeline outside Maricopa County

480-784-1500 EMPACT Suicide Prevention Center in Maricopa County

866-205-5229 EMPACT Toll-Free Statewide in Arizona

Realize that you are NOT alone, and that any obstacle can be overcome. It may not be easy, but it CAN be done and that asking for help proves you are STRONG, not weak. Next time you see someone with a semicolon tattoo or jewelry, ask them about their story. You’ll learn that struggle is universal, and that more people are affected by mental illness and suicide than you ever imagined, and that they can be a source of strength and guidance for you. #Let’sStopThePain #TeenStrongSemicolon