I often like to think my tattoos are pieces of my soul and my journey on my skin. For years, depression made it’s home in the one place I was supposed to call my home. It created a huge disconnect between my mind, body and soul. By engraining my skin with reminders of where I’m from, where I am and where I’m going, I felt liberated from depression’s invisible grip on my physical being.
That is why we asked people in our Mighty mental health community to share with us tattoos inspired by their struggle with depression. Because depression may have molded us into the people we are today — but those people are some of the strongest, most compassionate, most courageous people I have ever know.
Here’s what they shared with us:
1. “My girl Mina, my kitty, got me through a lot of tough times. Whenever I look at my scars and consider doing it again, I see her paw prints and the bright happy colors that remind me of the positives.” — Tegan F.
2. “Unalome tattoos are first spiritual symbols. In Buddhism, they are the visual image of reaching enlightenment. The spiral means our struggle with life, while the straight line shows that we have finally found harmony. Unalome are the ‘crowns’ of the Arahants, the enlightened saints.” — Marissa L.
3. “This one covers my suicide attempt. It reminds me that, even in darkness, there is something beautiful. And life can be a beautiful thing” — Toni E.
4. “I got the silhouette of a semicolon in watercolor on my wrist to cover my first attempt scar. My father and sister got the filled in version, also in watercolor, to show their support for me and my struggle so far.” — Amber V.
5. “It’s my mom’s hand writing saying “you are enough.” It’s a reminder. I’ve always felt I wasn’t enough for anything or anyone.” — Jaclyn C.
6. “I got this one as a reminder of all the things I’ve learned and all the people who care about me — my daily reminder that I am able to get through it. That I am allowed to stay alive. That I want to stay alive. It’s also related to Twenty One Pilots. Music helped me more then anything to get to the point where I am now.” — Celine S.
7. “The shadow represents my depression and how I always feel suffocated by it. The girl is holding a ball of light, which is hope and finding the light in the darkness.” — Rachel A.
8. “Reading has helped me through a lot. My first ‘nerd’ love was ‘Lord of the Rings.’ It says, ‘even darkness must pass’ in elvish script. I also wanted to incorporate a semicolon, and I thought it’d be perfect on the book.” — Kailey W.
9. “I have three. The first one is Princess Leia to honor the late, great Carrie Fisher who was my mental health hero. The second is the serotonin molecule.The third is my companion dog’s paw print because she saves my life every day. She is a reminder every day to keep fighting.” — Alyssa K.
10. “I have a cross for faith and a sunflower as they always grow towards the sun. The meaning to me is to keep strong and have faith that the days won’t always be so dark. Every time I feel like giving up, I look at this and it reminds me of how much I have overcome.” — Christiana W.
11. “A raven shattering through my struggles. I find hope and strength. No matter what my mental illness or life has thrown my way, I still manage to persevere.” — Samantha S.
12. “I got this to remind me that although I have scars, they are proof that I didn’t let my depression ‘demons’ win and take my life. I’m still living and I still struggle with multiple mental illnesses now, but I’m still conquering my demons and I’m here! ‘She conquered her demons and wore her scars like wings.'” — Dara B.
13. “It says, ‘Fall down seven times stand up eight.’ I’ve had depression for six years and anxiety for two. I’ve been suicidal and have been in stress centers. My tattoo reminds me to get back up after something difficult. Always get back up.” — Ciara S.
14. “My lion king inspired tattoo reminds me no matter what people or the voices say, I am me, only I can change myself and most importantly I am loved!” — Toni E.
15. “I’ve got two, both designed by me. Peter Pan on my right, to cover my scars. It reminds me that there’s a part of me that’ll never grow up and I can embrace that. I can place it in my past, in the film it says to die would be an awfully big adventure and so would be living.” — Emma P.
16. “This covers my self-harm scars and is a constant reminder of how the ‘Harry Potter’ books were my ultimate companion during the worst of my depression.” — Olivia H.
17. “It’s a quote from ‘It’s Kind of a Funny Story,’ by Ned Vizzini. It was the first book I came across that made me feel like someone else understood how my mind worked.” — Dominick L.
18. “During art therapy in hospital, balloons became my theme. In my head, I could relate them to my mental health — they can pop, fly away, be blown up, squeezed and so many other things that my head felt. ‘Hope’ gave me something to believe in, and a reminder things will get better.” — Emma L.
19. “I’ve only shared the meaning of this tattoo with a single person, but I figure I can share it with people who would understand. Contrary to what most people think, when they see what my tattoo says, it does not mean I will live forever. It means that I will not succumb to my depression and I will stay strong. The skulls represent the pain and the roses represent the beauty in it.” — Nash V.
20. “My partner has the top half. He’s with me on this journey. To me, it means we’re all living the same life at different stages, dealing with problems some different then others.” — Lettie H.
21. “;IGY6 22 it’s in my fathers hand writing who [died by] suicide. It reminds me daily to keep pushing. ;IGY6 22 means ‘pause,’ ‘I got your six (or back),’ the meaning 22 is because he was a veteran and so am I, and 22 veterans a day take their lives. I got this because I wanted others to see it in the military and know that I would help.” — Tanner M.
22. “It says, ‘Some of her journey was not very nice of course but sometimes, it was beautiful just the same.’ It’s a quote from my grandmother’s eulogy that my dad wrote. My grandma passed in the midst of my struggle with depression, anxiety and an eating disorder. It reminds me that our journey’s are never perfect, but despite my imperfection, I am still loved.” — Haley Q.
23. “It’s a lotus flower, which represents my struggle with depression because it is rooted in all the bad and blossoms into the great! It also incorporates the semicolon to show suicide/mental health awareness” — Emily W.
24. “Got this when I was at a very low point in 2015. I have followed To Write Love On Her Arms and this phrase came just at the right time. It really helped me when I couldn’t find a way to help myself. It reminded me of what I offer this world and the people in it. Now it serves as a reminder every time I see it. I am important. My story is important. I matter. And so do you.” — Bernadette C.
25. “I designed my tattoo. It has a huge personal meaning. It looks grim, but it reminds me every day how much I’ve endured and gotten through on my own, always coming out stronger in the end. I wear my heart on my sleeve. My art also helps me deal with my illness as well.” — Sophie D.
26. “This is my recovery tattoo. To me, a treble clef is more than just a music note. Music is my refuge, whenever I feel like self-harming or laying in bed all day, I turn to music. It makes me feel alive, it shows me I’m not alone. The ‘so it goes’ is a Billy Joel quote that represents just letting life be, things are going to happen that I have no control over. And that is OK.” — Courtney A.
27. “I got the tattoo to remind me that ‘my story isn’t over’ and my battle continues! I will fight every day, harder and harder, to win.” — Renea C.
28. “It’s a ‘Harry Potter’ spell that casts off Dementors, and Dementors basically suck your soul. With the spell you have a patronus, which is basically what fights for you and saves you. The Dementor is a metaphor for depression and the patronus is the feelings of love and hope that fight against it. With this tattoo, I am reminded that even though I struggle, I still have hope.” — Sydney T.
29. “I got this on top of my scars to remind myself that although the battle seems endless and I have an anchor weighing me down, I will not sink to the bottom because I am stronger than that.” — Bree N.
If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “HOME” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.