I was privileged to be able to participate in the Semicolon Fundraiser at the Prince of Wales Armouries Heritage Centre in Edmonton on Sunday September 13th. All proceeds from the event will go to MOMENTUM Walk-In Counselling of Edmonton (currently operating as Edmonton Walk In Counselling Society of Edmonton) to help cover the costs of delivering counselling services to those who need it.
So what’s with the semicolon? Many people have heard about the semicolon project. The premise is that the tattoo shows support and promotes awareness of depression and suicide. The reason a semicolon is used is because “a semicolon represents a sentence the author could have ended, but chose not to. The author is you and the sentence is your life.” Mental health issues are very difficult for many people to talk about. There is often fear of disclosing a mental illness because of the stigma that so often follows. The semicolon project is aiming to open dialogue and conversation about these difficult topics so that people can get much needed help and support. It was amazing to see how many people attended the event – 600 Edmontonians got a tattoo on Sunday! There were people getting tattoos, people supporting their friends/family who were getting tattoos, and even kids with their parents. Aside from the tattoos there were also booths with information about mental health issues, resources, and referral information.
The Semicolon Event Fundraiser in Edmonton happened during Suicide Prevention Month (September), and on the heels of Suicide Prevention Day (September 10). The event in Edmonton raised $30, 000! The event organizer and a member of the Edmonton Mental Health Awareness Committee, Wendy Engberg, said that “there has been nothing of this magnitude done in the Edmonton area to support mental health awareness and fundraising”. The opening ceremonies included speeches by Edmonton City Councillor Scott McKeen, Kendra Fisher, former Team Canada goaltender, and former Edmonton Eskimo 2013 Grey Cup Champion and brain injury survivor, Graeme Bell.
One thing that really struck me at the event was the memory wall – remembering those close to us who have died by suicide. Many of the people at the event are diagnosed with mental health issues, have attempted suicide, thought about suicide, or had someone close to them die by suicide. To see everyone there committing to be part of ongoing conversations about mental health, and in particular suicide, was a very emotional experience.
Here are some pictures of the event: The Project Semicolon poster, the huge lineup, and my new tattoo!
If you are struggling with anxiety, depression, grief, or suicidal thoughts please talk to someone. Reach out, let someone close to you know and they can help connect you with support.