If the name Amy Bleuel does not ring a bell to you, she was the founder of Project Semicolon, a support community that advocates for mental health awareness. Fans of the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why would know Selena Gomez and the cast’s matching semicolon tattoos. Amy was the woman behind the meaning of those tattoos.
“A semicolon is used when an author could’ve chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to. The author is you and the sentence is your life.”
Amy was an anti-suicide activist who pulled thousands of people out of the shadow. While the world laughed at and bullied people who were battling mental illness, she inspired these warriors to see the light and keep fighting.
On March 23, this anti-suicide activist took her own life.
When the headline first appeared on my news feed, I was at a loss for words. Wave after wave of emotions flooded over me as I processed the information. I never thought I would see the words “founder” “Project Semicolon” “dead” and “committed suicide” stitched in one sentence.
Although the news left me miserable for a week, there was a voice inside of me that told me she was selfish. How come she took her own life when she made it her life mission to save lives? Didn’t she think about how her death would resonate to the thousands of people who believed in her, stood by her, and held onto her words as if their lives depended on them?
Amy was selfish, I kept repeating to myself.
The news bothered me for days. Like Amy, I made it my mission to inspire others to never let the monsters in our heads win. When she lost the battle, I, too, lost all hope.
One night, when I was wallowing in depressing thoughts and contemplating Amy’s death, an idea hit me: I need to reach out to the administrators of the Project Semicolon Facebook page.
Me: Hello. I want to know. Now that Amy’s gone, how can you inspire others like me to keep going when the founder herself committed suicide? Hope you can give me an honest answer. Her death shook me to the core. After being an inspiration to many, it seems that one can only handle so much pain. To me, her death means suicide is still the answer.
Project Semicolon: Airen, Suicide isn’t an illness, but in most cases it’s the result of a mental illness. Amy was very open about her struggle with suicidal ideation, she never tried to hide that. She walked the halls of her darkness just like anyone else who finds inspiration in Project Semicolon. She struggled daily to find reason to stay here, and she won many battles but ultimately, she lost the fight against her mental illness.
Amy’s ending isn’t a snapshot of your destiny. She was a person vulnerable to bad days just like you. Her position with Project Semicolon didn’t make her immune to the same symptoms you experience in your own struggle. You continue; to fight for your life! Seek help and stay active in your mental health recovery. We support you;
At first, their response didn’t seem convincing enough for me. Even if I read it over and over, I kept coming to nothing but the following conclusions: that the phrase “Amy’s ending isn’t a snapshot of your destiny” was the administrator trying to belittle my battles; that the sentence “You continue; to fight for your life!” translated as “Amy didn’t continue, so why would I?” and the sentences “Seek help and stay active in your mental health recovery. We support you;” were plain bullshit. If Amy didn’t find comfort in the company of these people, why would I?
I kept justifying these points to my best friends, but now I know.
Amy Bleuel’s death is anything but an act of selfishness. We may have had our fair share of challenges, but each battle is unique and her story isn’t a mirror of my own. The administrator who replied to my message was right, after all. Amy’s position in the support community did not make her immune to the battles she faced. Just because she gave up, doesn’t mean I should, too.
It might have taken me days to realize this, but one thing is for sure. If anything, Amy’s death is a reminder that we should continue to fight the stigma and spread awareness about mental health.
If, like me, you lost all hope when Amy lost the battle, remember your journey from being a worrier to a warrior. You’ve gone a long way and it’s about time we work hand in hand to lift people up, ourselves included.
Remember this when you want to give up: Amy’s story might have ended, but the mission goes on. Continue your fight against the beasts inside and make others see the light. Her story might be over, but yours isn’t yet; Ours isn’t yet;
(This was previously published on Thought Catalog)