Tuesday was World Suicide Prevention Day. This week, the Agora Crisis Center is partnering with Archetype Tattoo Shop to host a week-long fundraising and awareness event.
Starting on Sept. 10 and lasting until Sept. 14, Archetype Tattoo will be championing the Semicolon Tattoo Project by administering tattoos of various designs and colors, ranging from $30 to $90 in price. All proceeds will directly benefit the Agora Crisis Center’s suicide prevention program located here in Albuquerque.
The semicolon itself is a metaphor: Just as an author adds a semicolon when they consider ending a sentence but do not, the semicolon represents a stopped impulse to end one’s life.
The Semicolon Tattoo Project began as a social media movement in 2013, during which individuals were encouraged to draw a semicolon on their wrists to represent awareness for suicide prevention. As its message gained in popularity, people took to permanently inking semicolons onto their skin as a way to show support for those struggling with suicidal ideations or actions.
The Agora Crisis Center is a student organization that provides free support and listening for anyone in need of emotional guidance. Such assistance is provided through helplines, online chats and volunteer opportunities.
Agora has attempted to organize the Semicolon Tattoo Project annually but are largely restricted by whether or not tattoo shops can host their event. This year’s event promises an overwhelming turnout of individuals of all ages wishing to show their support.
Alex Tibble, a former University of New Mexico student and current volunteer representative at Agora, said the unity aspect of the Semicolon Tattoo Project primarily constitutes its significance.
"It helps bring a community together and connects people who have personally been affected by suicide," Tibble said. "Events like this help us talk about suicide in an open and healthy way, which I think is important because when we don’t talk about it, we’re perpetuating the stigma around mental health."
Brittany Huddleston, another volunteer for Agora, said events like the Semicolon Tattoo Project ultimately aid the healing process for individuals suffering from mental health due to their effect on the stigmatization surrounding such issues.
"By ending the mental health stigma, affected individuals can continue on with their lives, even if they’ve had bad times," Huddleston said. "They’re able to live on after that."
Houseton Chaffin, who is also a volunteer for Agora, said that such events have the power to shift the discourse surrounding topics regarding mental health.
"When people talk about suicide, it’s often not a healthy depiction," Chaffin said. "It seems glamorized. Events like this that are public and appeal to a lot of people help connect everyone and help them have an open-minded view on mental health."
Tibble, Huddleston and Chaffin are all members of Agora’s Executive Committee, and their roles consist of mentorship, training for new volunteers, helping crisis support teams and being on-call, among other duties.
Samantha Gonzales, a junior majoring in theater at UNM, obtained her first ever tattoo at the Archetype Tattoo Shop: a semicolon designed as a cat.
Gonzales spoke about the importance of the event as well, saying "events like these bring a different level of awareness to issues. It is easy to just talk about an issue, but to have a permanent reminder of that issue is a totally different level of awareness."
The event will continue until this Saturday. Archetype Tattoo is located at 2019 Menaul Blvd NE. The Agora Crisis Center, a member of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline network, can be contacted 24/7 at 505-277-3013 or online at agoracares.org/chat-service.
Beatrice Nisoli is a freelance reporter for the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BeatriceNisoli.