Amy Bleuel (1985 - 2017)

Amy Bleuel, the founder of the suicide prevention organization Project Semicolon, died by suicide March 23, 2017. She was 31.

Bleuel, a Wisconsin native who fought bravely through her life to overcome mental health challenges, founded Project Semicolon in 2013. It represented her resolution to travel a path of help and healing after a young life that she described in her writing as traumatically painful: physical and emotional abuse from the age of 6, sexual assault at 13, the suicide of her father when she was 18.

“I kept on fighting,” she wrote in a short bio at the Project Semicolon website. “I didn’t have a lot of people in my corner, but the ones I did have kept me going. In my 20 years of personally struggling with mental health, I experienced many stigmas associated with it. Through the pain came inspiration and a deeper love for others. … Please remember there is hope for a better tomorrow.”

Project Semicolon, which seeks to inspire people in their personal struggles to continue living, takes its name from the idea that a semicolon is a punctuation mark that means a sentence isn’t over yet — that there’s still more to come, that every moment offers the possibility of a new beginning.

The initiative has reached thousands over the past four years. More than 238,000 people follow Project Semicolon on Facebook. Many of them have shared photos of the semicolon designs they’ve had tattooed onto their skin as inspirational reminders. A book by Bleuel collecting dozens of portraits of “heartfelt, unflinchingly honest, and eternally hopeful” lives is currently scheduled to publish in September 2017 from HarperCollins.

At the website TheMighty.com, writer Sarah Schuster spoke forthrightly in the wake of Bleuel’s death to comfort members of the mental health community.

“I wanted to acknowledge the complexity of Amy’s death. I wanted people who feel hopeless right now to know we understand how much this sucks,” Schuster wrote. “But we will tell you in no way does this taint the amazing work Amy did. It doesn’t make your semicolon tattoo have less meaning… We keep going. We keep spreading hope. We work harder.”

If someone you know exhibits warning signs of suicide, he or she should not be left alone. Call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255. The Lifeline provides free, confidential support for people in crisis or emotional distress, 24/7 year-round. The Lifeline also offers an online chat for people who prefer to reach out online rather than by phone.

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