The Semicolon’s Presence

February 3, 2021
Ilana Rubenstein

North Caldwell, New Jersey, United States

Class of 2023

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Content Warning: This article discusses the topic of suicide.

If you look on your keyboard, three rows down to the right, you will see an icon that is made up of a period and comma. Apart, these two icons are just typical grammar points, but when combined, they form something of completely different importance. A semicolon is typically seen as a punctuation mark that indicates a pause between two independent clauses. Though this is the literal meaning, the semicolon means so much more.

For decades, the semicolon has been seen as an affirmation in the mental health community. Whether it is worn, tattooed, etc., it has a universal understanding. The semicolon is to be used as a message of solidarity against suicide, depression, addiction, and other mental health issues. For as long as I can remember, the semicolon has always had a strong presence in my life—but now more than ever. I recently lost a close friend of mine and the first thing I did was blame myself. I kept asking how I could not have seen the signs before, and how could I have let something like this happen? I know this is something I should never blame myself for, but at the same time, I could not help it.

The presence of this icon is dedicated to the prevention of mental health issues, mainly suicide, through raising public awareness of depression and equipping communities and individuals with tools to promote mental health. There are many projects and organizations dedicated to the cause, which can be found all over Instagram as well as other social media platforms.

Many people opt to get the semicolon tattoo to represent their own struggles and victories with suicide or to even express their support for those suffering from these disorders. The tattoo is hopeful and inspirational, though normally small and subtle. In the context of grammar, a semicolon is used to combine two complete sentences that are related. While a period signifies that two sentences are saying different things, a semicolon is used when two sentences are so closely related that a period would be too much of a separation. In other words, a semicolon means that the thought is not quite over even though the sentence is—there is still more to come. When an author chooses to use a semicolon, they have decided to not end the sentence. The author is you and the sentence is your life.

While you do not have to get a semicolon tattoo because of its meaning, having one most likely means you will be associated with it. That is why those who get the tattoo usually do so to honor someone—whether that is a friend, a relative, or yourself—or to raise awareness of mental health, suicide, addiction, or self-harm. A semicolon tattoo is more than just a visual representation; they’re often a conversation-starter, meaning you can bring awareness to the cause.

With my ongoing struggles and victories, I always look to the semicolon for motivation to keep going. I have been through my fair share of bumps in the road and I can tell you that it has not always been easy. What I can say, however, is that the semicolon has really influenced my life in a positive way. It might seem trivial to some, that a punctuation mark can mean so much more, but that is the point. The semicolon is supposed to show that mental health does not define you and your life, you can be so much more than your disorder. Semicolons always bring hope, hope that the story is not over yet, hope to the ones who can choose to fight instead of ending it all. You are needed and loved, please don’t forget that.

In Memory of Christopher Kenny
August 26th, 2004 - December 23rd, 2020

Ilana Rubenstein is a BBG from Greater Jersey Hudson River Region and she is her chapter's N'siah!

All views expressed on content written for The Shofar represent the opinions and thoughts of the individual authors. The author biography represents the author at the time in which they were in BBYO.

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