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Hello Idaho: Semicolon tattoos spark conversation about suicide awareness

"It signifies a person's decision to continue living and continuing their story."

BOISE, Idaho — Dozens of people stood in line recently to get a tattoo aimed at starting a conversation about suicide awareness.

The Semicolon Tattoo Project, which sees local artists ink the symbol on people for $50 apiece, is aimed at raising money for the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline.

Thomas Caldwell at Resurrected Tattoo in Boise said six artists at the shop work all day to tattoo the semicolon on those who want it. 

"We'll probably each do 20, 30, 40 tattoos in one day. Just hearing everyone's stories and what they have been through, it's a great way to help," he said. "The semicolon signifies the point in which an individual makes a decision to keep living rather than ending their life. That's where the significance of the semicolon comes in, the same way it's used in grammar when a person could have ended a sentence but continued with a semicolon to continue the sentence."

Caldwell said this is the third year he has been involved in the project. 

Andrew Sheffield, the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline phone room manager, said suicide prevention is a cause that everyone can get behind. Those who chose to get the semicolon permanently inked are paying tribute to their own decision or honoring someone they lost, he said. 

"It signifies a person's decision to continue living and continuing their story," he said. "Some people get it because of their own personal struggle, some get it because someone close to them attempted or completed suicide. So people have their own personal meaning to it."

If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, please reach out for help. The Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline is available by call at 800-273-8255 and by text 208-398-4357.

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