An essay collection from contributors who have experienced mental illness or who have lost a loved one to suicide.
Following her father’s suicide and her own battles with mental health issues, Bleuel founded Project Semicolon in 2013. She encouraged participants to draw or tattoo a semicolon on their bodies, submit a photo, and share their stories online. To Bleuel, the semicolon represented “when an author chooses to continue a sentence rather than end it.” Symbolically, the project hopes to help people understand that “you are the author and the sentence is your life.” The essays in this collection represent a range of mental health experiences, including anxiety, panic disorders, OCD, and self-harm. Some contributors reference teen experiences while others refer to spouses, children, or military service. The essays often explain the onset of the mental illness or self-harming behaviors and typically conclude with encouragement for readers experiencing their own challenges. Collectively, several themes emerge, including trauma from abuse, feelings of shame surrounding mental health challenges, and the understanding that mental health management is a lifetime commitment. Most essays are just a few pages in length, occasionally making it difficult to visualize exactly how a contributor gained control over his or her self-destructive impulses. A substantial list of resources is appended.
Though Bleuel committed suicide in March 2017, Project Semicolon remains an active nonprofit support network, and this book is eloquent testimony of its work. (Nonfiction. 14-adult)