Article updated March 17, 2020.
Suicide doesn’t touch people lightly. For both those who lose someone to suicide and those who have attempted themselves, the impact is profound. And often, these experiences overlap. Survivors of suicide loss are at higher risk of developing major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and suicidal behaviors themselves.
Some people who have been affected by suicide get tattoos to commemorate suicide’s impact.
People affected by suicide may get tattoos for a variety of reasons, and some could include paying tribute to someone who died by suicide or a reminder of how far someone has come in their mental health journey. The Mighty contributor Isabella S. wrote that she got her tattoo – to help her keep going on bad depression days.
I need [my tattoo] as a symbol of what I have already overcome, of the trauma I have begun to heal from. That every single time I have thought my sentence was over, it wasn’t yet. I need this as a beacon of hope, a promise that things will get better.
We teamed up with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and asked people who were affected by suicide — both suicide loss survivors and those who’ve dealt with suicidal thoughts — to share with us tattoos they got in honor of their journeys.
Here’s what they shared with us:
1. “A little over two years ago, I graduated high school. My dad came to visit my little brother and I for my graduation. A few days after my dad went back home, he died from suicide. For my graduation, my dad gave me a graduation card (the last card he ever gave me) telling me how proud he was of me. I took part of that card and had it tattooed on my arm in his handwriting. Even through all of his struggles, I get to look down at my arm every day and be reminded of how much he loved my brother and I.” — Gabrielle Ezell
2. “I lost my husband a year ago to suicide. Soon after I and many of our family and friends starting seeing ladybugs. I believe he was visiting us. So I decided to get a semicolon with a ladybug incorporated on my left wrist to honor him and start conversations about suicide prevention and loss.” — Susan Pugh T.
3. “I lost a student to suicide in January and I myself have dealt with depression and suicidal thoughts at times. I had considered getting a semicolon tattoo in 2015 but never did it. After I lost my student I decided to finally get one. It combines four symbols: the semicolon for suicide awareness, infinity sign to represent that life goes on, two hearts to represent love and support, and it’s meant to look like a butterfly to represent hope and change.” — Brittany Marie
4. The first is to remind myself I am infinite and my story isn’t over. The second is my mandala. When I was hospitalized, coloring them really helped take me out of crisis mode. I got one tattooed so that no matter where I am, I can color it if I’m in crisis or want to self harm..I have yet to color it! — Vicky P.
5. “I got mine for my mom. Almost 30 years ago she took her own life. The heart on the tattoo is her favorite color. I also decided to leave the heart open since my own heart hasn’t been whole since she passed.” — Kerry Vecchi
6. “I’ve survived two suicide attempts and years of anorexia and self-harming. I got this tattoo two years ago right over my self-harming scars to remind myself how far I’ve come and that my depression and past destructive behaviors do not define who I am. They are a part of me, but definitely not the only part.” — Melissa L.
7. “My parents, siblings and I got semicolon tattoos in honor of my little brother who we lost a year ago due to bullying. It’s a reminder that he lives inside my heart and his story isn’t over.” — Angelica W.
8. “This is a scar cover up I got. I’ve always viewed my depression as the Hulk inside of me that I have to struggle with everyday.” — Liz Catalano
9. “My daughter, Hailee Joy Lamberth died just two days after her 13th birthday. She was bullied at school. We have advocated in her honor since and in 2015 Nevada passed ‘Hailee’s Law‘ to help combat bullying.” — Jason L.
10. “This tattoo represents many things for me. But one of the birds is to represent my cousin Monica who we lost to suicide a little over a year ago. She was 16 and it was an incredible shock to all of us. And the quote “Still I Rise” from a poem by Maya Angelou is to remind myself I can get through anything.” — Danielle F.
11. “I got the word warrior because I fight with these thoughts every day, and I survived a suicide attempt. The semicolon is in there because it symbolizes that my story isn’t over. I got it right there on my arm so I can see it clearly every day and remind myself to stay strong.” — Ashley L.
12. “The quote ‘this too shall pass’ is a reminder that both good and bad will pass. So appreciate the good moments and don’t worry about the bad (suicidal thoughts were a big one for me). The quote is the stem of the flower, and the flower itself is a peony. It represents healing. Healing from depression. This arm is where I used to self harm, so I decided to put something beautiful over it. — Reshmi C.
13. “I lost my friend to suicide. This is her laugh converted in to sound waves. I will never forget her laugh and I loved hearing it so had it tattooed on my arm.” — Alison B.
14. “My personal reminder to keep breathing through my anxiety
attacks and keep fighting my suicidal thoughts daily. My semicolon sun will keep shining and my story will keep on keeping on.” — Jairo David M.
15. “I got this tattoo as a reward for being six months self-harm
free. A serotonin molecule to remind myself my depression isn’t my fault. The word warrior because I battle for my mental health
every day. and the semicolon in ‘warr;or,’ because I survived my suicidal thoughts and urges last year. It was the hardest moment of my life, but I admitted myself to a psychiatric hospital before I could act on the urges. It saved my life. I am 10 months self-harm free today.” — Borderline Heart
“I’ve struggled with suicidal thoughts for a long time and I’ve lost too many friends to mental illness and suicide. I was lucky enough to have a therapist who I adored. However, in one of life’s unexplainably cruel moments, she was diagnosed with cancer
and died just three short months later at the age of 42. It was devastating. She also had a ‘live’ tattoo. Losing her made it that much harder to carry on, but I know it is what she wanted for herself and for me and I love having that reminder where I can see it regularly.” — Heather B.
17. “I just got this tattoo a week ago. It has a semicolon that symbolizes my history with suicidal thoughts, and how I overcame them. ‘Different, not less’ reminds me that just because my brain functions in a different way that has rendered me disabled, I’m not less than anyone else. My struggle does not define me, but it is a part of me that I deal with day to day. This tattoo helps to remind me of that.” — JJ
18. “Left tat: Hamsa tattoo often represents strength and power as it protects against the evil eye or negativity. Lotus flowers are known to symbolize that there’s beauty even in the darkest places. Right tat: the semicolon tattoo represents hope and love to those who are struggling with depression, suicide, addiction
and self-injury. The anchor stands for the times I’ve sunk down, while the balloon pulls me up. See, even though balloons weigh way less than anchors, if I allow it, my balloon should be strong enough to lift up the anchor. The ballon symbolizes resilience.”
19. “My daughter’s father passed away last October. We weren’t together at the time but I still loved him and always will. I got a tattoo of a quote from a letter he wrote me, in his handwriting. Every time I look at it I’m reminded of all the good times we had and the gorgeous little girl he gave me.” — Jadzia Dannelle R.
20. “A quote from ‘Winnie the Pooh’ that has gotten me through the hardest days. It always reminds me I’ve gone through what seemed like the worst but survived.” — Jenny D.
21. “Two months after my suicide attempt I got this tattoo because of my love for the book ‘Impulse’ by Ellen Hopkins, in which paper airplanes are a reoccurring theme. For those who haven’t read it, ‘Impulse’ is about teenagers battling mental disorders in a psychiatric hospital. Both the book and this tattoo are my reminders that life goes on, and that sometimes you have to go back before you can fly forward.” — Lizz T.
22. “My best friend, Travis, lost his fight with depression almost three years ago. He doodled a picture of him and I on his desk calendar at work and I had it tattooed on my shoulder to remind me that he’s always with me.” — Tessa G.
23. “I lost my dad to suicide in January of this year. This is from my last birthday card from him last September. The note my dad left when he died was awful, so this is what I choose to remember as the words he left me with instead.” — Amy P.
24. “I always [struggled with] depression, and suicidal thoughts. When I was in high school a good friend of mine died and I realized I was blessed to have this life. So I decided to keep living for him.” — Melissa Renee W.
25. “A few of mine have sentiments to me breaking free from anorexia and suicidal tendencies and dissociative identity disorder… this one represents transforming from bones back to beauty. After one very serious suicde attempt left me in a coma for three days, this is my way of reminding myself the seemingly impossible is in fact possible and I can do this.” – Charl B.
26. “My younger cousin died suicide a little over three years ago. I got the semicolon tattoo for her and for me. I have episodes of minor depression myself, but it took losing someone close to me for me to look more into it and take it seriously. She’s the reason I’m going to school for counseling and therapy. I got the tattoo to open up a line of communication about mental illness and suicide, and to remind me about the person who made me want to be a part of the conversation.” — Sophie Kharmaine A.P.
27. “I lost hope after my brother took his live, but I found the Amerian Foundation for Suicide Prevention and have done the Out of the Darkness walks for the past five years. It always feels good to be with others who have had a similar experience and help fight suicide! The pain never goes completely away but over time I found some hope.” — Jennifer Brockway C.
28. “I lost my mother to suicide when I was 16 years old. During her funeral as I tried to speak I started to cry. My minister put his hand on my shoulder. Then, I felt another on my other. As I felt this I looked over and saw no one, but I was able to calm down and finish what I had to say. I got this tattoo to remind me not only of my mother, who I miss, but to remind me no matter what happens in life I always have a guardian angel on my side.” — David M.
29. “The night I planned out my first suicide attempt, a few months after my fiance died by suicide, I was in a bar in NYC where I lived. I went out that night with my roommate because I didn’t want anything to seem ‘off.’ I went downstairs to use the bathroom. I came out of the stall and on one of the mirrors this was written: ‘Your heart is a muscle the size of your fist. You have to keep loving, you have to keep fighting.’ I broke down in tears on the floor. I have no idea where it came from or who wrote it, but it prevented me from taking my life that night.” — Jamie J.
30. “This is a passage from the classic book, ‘Jane Eyre.’ It was my mom’s favorite story. She died by suicide in 2011. ‘May your eyes never shed such stormy, scalding, heart-wrung tears as poured from mine. May you never appeal to Heaven in prayers so hopeless and so agonized as in that hour left my lips: for never may you, like me, dread to be the instrument of evil to what you wholly love.’” — Lesley Haley H.
31. “One year after my brothers suicide I chose this tattoo in memory of him. In Arabic it reads, “For every dark night, there’s a brighter day.” It’s something I wish he would’ve known in his darkest hour, and something that got me through my darkest hours following his suicide.” — Nicole G.T.
32. I used to cut myself, and after two years of being cut free, I got this tattoo in my little brother’s handwriting. From the song ‘Watch the Sky’ by Something Corporate (a band that inspired me to become a musician): ‘When you can’t bear to carry me, I’ll fight / you live the life you’re given with the storms outside / and some days all I do is watch the sky.’”
33. “Three years ago I lost my cousin to suicide. It was a couple weeks before his 26th birthday. Nick was a phenomenal young man who had a passion for language, medicine, our country and his family. His death was sudden and extremely surprising. No one guessed this brilliant young man was hurting. I got this tattoo, a semicolon composed of leafs, in remembrance of him. He was a Buddhist and embraced nature. I want to end the stigma, spread awareness and by having a visible piece of art that inquires questions I am hoping to change even one person’s presumptions of suicide and mental health illness.” — Rachel W.
34. “My brother wrote this poem when he was little. He took his own life on March 3, 2015 at 19 years old. The poem was hanging on a bulletin board of a hospital clinic where our son was being treated, and where my brother was treated fifteen years before. After he passed, the nurse mailed me the original poem.” — Ronni Davis W.
35. “I got this little baby last Tuesday. It’s the handwriting of my favorite artist. I think the sentence quite explains it.” — Lindsay B.
36. “My depression was at one of its worst lows, and I suffered with suicidal ideation. I isolated myself with music as my only coping mechanism. “Live Through This” is technically a Hole reference, but I got it as a reminder to get through the day, and that no trauma I ever went through before then or that I would endure in the future would stop me.” – Marissa A.
37. “One of my best friends had severe postpartum depression. She grew up showing cattle in FFA and always loved cows. The flowers are blue and yellow to represent suicide and depression awareness ribbons.” – Cate N.H.
38. “Lord of the rings quote ‘Not all those who wander are lost. And the semi colon, I almost attempted suicide but chose to get help. I still have them from time to time, but this helps me.” – Ariel H.
39. “This is the tattoo I got when my husband died from suicide two years ago. This was the last hug him and our son had before he passed away. The sunflower my son is holding is my husband’s favorite flower.” – Bayly G
40. “Harry Potter has been a part of my life for almost all of my existence. Originally a reminder to stay strong, it’s now a testament to my strength and resilience during a dark time in my life.” – Kallie W
41. “This was done after inpatient treatment for severe depression and suicidal tendencies the triangle represents creation, destruction and preservation with the flowers representing new growth. I had to have a daily reminder to pick up myself and persevere through anything, to destroy negative thoughts and create happy memories.” – Amanda W.
42. “My sister and I got matching for our mom we lost to suicide, she loved hummingbirds and that is her signature from the last birthday card she gave me” – Chelsea B
43. “My tattoo is a semicolon with a twist. It was inspired by the quote ‘even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise’” – Amanda L.
44. “Snoopy was my brother’s favorite. I got this tattoo a year ago – he is Snoopy, I am Woodstock. The charm on Snoopy’s collar is a semi-colon.” – Kimberly P.S.
45. “I was in a very dark place for some time. This song helped me through it and waiting for my tattoo appointment kept me going. I still love to stare at it and take in the message.” – Dana L.
If you have a tattoo commemorating suicide loss or your journey with suicidal thoughts, you can share it on The Mighty by posting a Thought.