by Ronnie Walker
There is no greater gift you can give or receive than to honor your calling. It is why you were born and how you become most truly alive” ~Oprah
This week, I was saddened to learn of the death of Amy Bleuel, founder of the Semicolon Project. Amy was a survivor of the suicide of her father, who ended his life when she was 18. She understood both the pain of loss and the challenge of life-long depression. She was plagued with suicidal thoughts most of her life.
Amy’s compassion and commitment to encouraging others – and her desire to end stigma, struck a chord in the hearts of millions of people across the globe. Her first social media call out was simple:
“on April 16, 2013 everyone who self-harms, is suicidal, depressed, has anxiety, is unhappy, going through a broken heart, just lost a loved one, etc. draw a semicolon on your wrist. a semicolon represents a sentence the author could’ve ended, but chose not to. the author is you and the sentence is your life. Repost and tag to #semicolonproject416”
It’s estimated that millions of people have gone on since then, to share photos of semicolons – drawn or tattooed on their bodies.
When I think about Amy's short life, it becomes clearer than ever that how we live our life -- what we do with the time we have allotted -- matters. The world has been changed by Amy's efforts to erase the stigma that surrounds mental illness and to let those who suffer know they are not alone. Amy ended her life, but her message lives on.
As I grow older, I become more anchored in the belief that each of us brings something very special to the planet: something intrinsically us -- a soul imprint or signature contribution -- commitments and capacities so familiar we take them for granted. It's just who we are and what we do. Amy's death -- and her life -- remind me to how few days on this planet we really have -- and what an opportunity it is to make a difference.
Ronnie Susan Walker MS, LCPC is the Founder and Executive Director of the Alliance of Hope for Suicide Loss Survivors. She lost her stepson Chan, in 1996.