two tattoos: One wrist says "keep moving" other other says "keep fighting."

35 Tattoos From People Who Have Been Affected by Suicide

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 who have been affected by suicide get tattoos to commemorate suicide’s impact. 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

Tattoo says: I love you very much! -Daddy


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 Travis

a semicolon with a ladybug as the period


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

tattoo on wrist of an infinity sign with a semicolon in the middle


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 Powelson

First tattoo (on her root) reads infinite. Second tattoo (on her leg) is a mandala


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

semi-colon and an incomplete heart


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 Lynott

tattoo reads: I am more than my scars


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 Wesener

semicolon and a heart


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

tattoo on the hulk

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 Lamberth

chest tattoo that reads "Hailee Joy"

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 Frost

tattoo of a tree
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 Lake

tattoo reads "warrior"

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 Chandra
  Quotes reads "This too shall pass"
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 Brown
tattoo of sounds waves
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 Mora
Man with a tattoo that says "keep breathing kid"
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
Tattoo says: warrior
16. “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 Blair
tattoo on wrist that reads: live
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 Jacobs
tattoo reads: different, not less
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.”
wrist tattoos

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 Richlin
tattoo reads: I love you baby
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 Dunlop
tattoo reads: braver than you think, stronger than you seem
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 Thomas
tattoo of a paper airplane

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 Gray

woman with a tattoo of 2 people on her sholder

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 Prough

Tattoo reads: I love you dearly.

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 Wilkerson

tattoo of a feather reads" love life"

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 Bradshaw

tattoo of a skeleton

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 Anderson-Proctor

tattoo of a girl holding a balloon

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 Cross

tattoo reads: hope

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 Monson


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 Jager
two tattoos: One wrist says "keep moving" other other says "keep fighting."
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 Hudson
tattoo of a passage from Jane Eyre
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 Griffin-Thompson
tattoo in arabic
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.’”

tattoo that reads 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 Wilson

tattoo of falling leaves
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 Wells
right side: tattoo that reads -- I wonder what it missed. The right is a handwritten poem.
 35. “I got this little baby last Tuesday. It’s the handwriting of my favorite artist. I think the sentence quite explains it.” — Lindsay Bonnez
tattoo reads: "I am enough."

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

35 Tattoos From People Who Have Been Affected by Suicide


A young man holding his dog while lying on his bed.

The Cruel Questions That Remain After a Suicide

April Fool’s day. A day when many of us allow ourselves to be pranksters and playful with those around us. On April 1, 2014, we lost that ability to be playful on this day. We lost our innocence.

By 4:30 a.m., the morning following that night, our entire world imploded. We were immersed into an unknown world of eternal turmoil, guilt, disbelief and shock. By 8:30 a.m., all of my remaining children knew Jaie was gone and we had begun to notify immediate family of his death.

A young man holding his dog against his chest as he lies in bed.

Death by suicide.

Jaie took his own life and no one could even begin to comprehend why. Jaie has a beautiful fiancée and 7 month old baby girl, both of which he adored. He has a big brother, who was one of his closest friends and confidantes. His big sister is a ferocious protector of her little brother no matter what. Then, there was me, his mum, who no matter how difficult things were, I would always be there for him, when push came to shove.

Jaie has his maternal grandparents who love him dearly. He has his best friends, of whom all think he is an absolute treasure. Jaie knew all of this. Yet, still he killed himself.

We, his family and loved ones, are left behind with the eternal questions;

  • Why? Why didn’t he…? Why didn’t I…? Why didn’t…?
  • What could I have done to prevent this?
  • How can we survive this?
  • Will I lose another to suicide now?
  • How did it get to this?
  • Didn’t he know I loved him?
  • Didn’t he love me/us?

These are only a few of the incessant and cruel questions. Then, there is also that lovely little friend who works amazingly well when combined with guilt — hindsight. Hindsight turns completely innocent historical discussions or incidents into a full-on blame game with ourselves.

Almost 30 months into our journey and I can say our minds and souls learn to manage the pain differently. We learn how to wear a mask and function like “normal” folks. Meanwhile, inside our chests, our hearts are tearing apart. In our skulls, our minds are constantly processing information received for potential triggers and emotional potholes.

Here’s an example: On the weekend, while riding, I saw a number plate with the year “‘93” on it. My instant thought was, “The driver is a year younger than Jaie.” My immediate thought after that was, “He is already a year older than Jaie was when he died.” I had to pull over to make myself breathe and to stop myself from wailing.

Individually, we are slowly learning to live with the constantly shifting sands under our feet. As a family unit, we are still struggling in many ways simply because of how close we were and are. Family gatherings are flawed now with the absence of a vibrant and energetic young character, who was irrepressible and made the room fill with energy.

His little daughter is full of that identical energy. We all try to take turns getting a dose of her, as if we are machines in need of a new battery to refill us with some vitality and desire to continue to live in this messed up world. Baby steps, I keep saying, is what we must do to survive. So we tip toe and try to find a suitable path back into life.

To learn more about Jai’s story and his family’s journey, you can follow @JaiesJourney and hashtag #WhyISpeakAboutSuicide.

Image via Thinkstock.

This post originally appeared on Our New Normal After Death by Suicide.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

woman looking upset at a computer

A Response to the Suicide Joke That Sent Shivers Down My Spine

I read a post online that translated to: “The more suicidal people there are, the less suicidal people there are.” It had around  5,000 likes. So to those 5,000 people, I have a few words for you:

I’ve been suicidal — more than once actually. Less than a year ago I was so close to ending my life. So I cannot figure out why 5,000 people could find a post like that “funny” or “cool” or “likable.”

When I saw that post, a shiver went down my spine. I was brought back to that horrid night when I was on the verge of putting an end to my never-ending misery.

For anyone who thinks it’s OK to make a joke about suicide, why don’t you try living with a mental illness, living with depression, anxiety, borderline, bipolar — I could go on. Why don’t you try living in my shoes for a day? You can read my other posts if you want to find out what it’s like to live in my shoes, but right now I’m here to talk about something else.

Every 40 seconds someone somewhere in the world dies by suicide, and for every one, there are 20 others who attempted suicide but survived. That means roughly every 2 seconds, someone tries to kill themselves. How many seconds have ticked by since you started reading this? How many people have died by something you think funny? How many?

Many people in this world feel miserable — so miserable that they think the world will be better without them. I thought that too. And I can tell you there’s no worse feeling in the world than wanting to die. And it makes me feel sick to think there’s people out there who find this a laughing matter.

If you’re one of those people who think suicide is a joke, think twice. Think past the little joke you saw on Facebook, and think about what happens in the real world, past your screen.

Think of all of those battling with an illness you can’t see. The people around you, your friends and family, could easily be contemplating suicide without you noticing.

So before you make a joke and count “likes” think, “I this really something to laugh about?”

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255

A young woman is writing in cafe.

To the One Who Can't Find the Light

To whom this may concern,

I want you to stay alive. Better yet, I need you stay alive no matter what has occurred in your life. I know what the pain feels like. I know how the pages of life can turn. Right now, you may feel nothing but darkness, and you can’t seem to find the light. You may feel like you want to end it all because you no longer have the strength to fight. You’re just tired of being sick and tired. That doesn’t make you weak.

I know some people don’t understand you. They may have told you to just pray the pain away instead of also seeking help. They may have told you suicide is selfish and how you’re feeling is just all in your head. Well, people tend to forget the brain is one of the most powerful organs we own. If our brain isn’t functioning properly, then we are not functioning properly.

Mental illness can make you feel so alone at times. Some people just don’t understand, but please, don’t give up. I wrote this letter to give you hope to stay alive and to continue fighting.

There was a time I wanted to die, and I nearly lost my fight. I know what it’s like to lay up in a hospital bed close to death. I know how this battle can make you feel like you’re living hell on earth. I thought death would be worth it, but thank God I’m still alive to tell you it’s not. I’m no longer embarrassed to tell people I tried to end my life. Sharing my story can save lives.

Had I died, I wouldn’t know things truly can get better. I wouldn’t have seen recovery. I wouldn’t have the chance to see I have a purpose in this world. When you are so lost in the darkness, suicide will lie to you.

Suicide will tell you it’s no other way out but death. It will tell you nothing will ever get better, but it’s a lie. You do have a choice. Choose life. You can find recovery. Your life is precious. You’re still worthy of love and happiness. Keep fighting! When you feel you can’t hold on any longer, please, remember you absolutely can.

You have the power and will to survive. You are so much stronger than you think. You’re a warrior! Keep living. If no one else believes in you, I do. You will make it. You just have to live to see it happen.

Peace and love,

This letter, written by myself, was recently featured on my advocating page on Facebook, A Fight Worth Finishing. I wanted to spread my message. I recently read on To Write Love On Her Arms’ page about a campaign called #IKeptLiving. That campaign sort of sparked my need to write this.

Image via Thinkstock.

This post originally appeared on A Fight Worth Finishing.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

What You Should Think About Before You Joke About Suicide

This blog title is deep and may even elicit a response like, “Why would someone joke about suicide?” I want you to take a minute, think, scroll your news feeds on social media and let me know if you see any suicidal statements. Still nothing coming to mind? Have you ever seen the gun emoji aimed at someone’s head? Have you heard anyone say, “I would just kill myself?” Those are some brief examples.

During the holidays, I overheard a conversation where someone was irritated about having to spend time with their in-laws. Following were a multitude of graphic, suicidal statements to emphasize frustration regarding the situation. I also see that emoji combination come across my Facebook newsfeed daily to emphasize aggravation or irritation. I may not have been so sensitive to it in the past, but last May, I lost someone very dear to me by suicide. Before that, I spent three years working at a crisis hotline with the goal of saving people’s lives who are contemplating suicide. These statements may be made in passing, as a joke or to add significance to a situation, but the reality is suicide is not a joke.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention completed a study for 2015 indicating that 117 people die by suicide every day. Also, for every completion, there are 25 attempts. Pause for a moment and think about how many people each day feel death is the only option in their life. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention also reports statistics that almost 50 percent of those suicides are completed with a firearm. Does that create pause when you see that emoji?

These statistics indicate there is a high chance people around you each day have been impacted by suicide. So, why don’t you know about it? Unfortunately, mental health and suicide are topics people do not like to talk about. There seems to be a fear if we talk about it, then maybe we will “catch it.”

The reality is, without talking about it, it may happen in your life. Individuals and families can not and will not be saved by staying quiet. Joking about it does not solve problems. If anything, it takes away from the severity of the problem. Cancer is not funny, neither are terrorist attacks, terminal illnesses or accidental deaths. These are things society acknowledges as serious. Why is death because of mental illness different?

Those 117 families that receive those phone calls, find their family members or have the police waiting for them at work will tell you it is not a joke. Please, think about others around you next time you post on social media or make jokes. Remember, you never know who can hear what you say or will see what you’re posting.

Image via Thinkstock

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255
outline of heads

Suicide Will Not Be My Family's Legacy

Growing up, even as a small child, I always had a sense of sadness. I never understood why I felt this way. When I was 15, my father took his life. It changed me. It deepened the sadness and added hurt.

After my father’s death, I learned he had been hospitalized for mental illness. It was hushed away until it was too late. After my father’s suicide, his older brother took his life too. Then, two cousins died by suicide. It seemed like it was never going to end.

I had also tried many times, wanting to end the pain. It was not until my youngest grandsons’ grandma took her life too that I knew I must make this legacy end. He has had five blood members choose death over living. I would be the sixth. I could not let this innocent child have this kind of legacy. No matter how bad it gets, no matter how much I want to leave, I can’t. He deserves better.

He needs to see courage and strength can win. He needs to see my story is not over because I love him. I will not let suicide be his legacy. Life will be.

Image via Thinkstock

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

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