#YEGsemicolon makes permanent mark for mental health awareness
The event raised close to $50,000 for walk-in counselling services.
Nicole Andrews's life is on hold — but only temporarily.
The Fort McMurray woman was one of more than 90,000 people forced to flee her home when a wildfire engulfed her town last week.
The semicolon she got tattooed behind her left ear on Sunday during #YEGsemicolon, a mental health awareness campaign in Edmonton, is a reminder that things are going to be OK.
The semicolon resonates for a lot of people who struggle with mental illness, because it represents that your story isn't over yet.- Wendy Enberg, organizer
"To me, the semicolon is representing there's a pause in my life right now — for many reasons — but especially not being able to go home," said Andrews, who is staying with family in Leduc.
"A lot of people are going through a lot of issues right now, having left Fort McMurray and what we went through leaving town. We shouldn't be afraid to be like I'm having trouble sleeping or this sound is setting me off. It's important to talk about it. Don't bottle it up."
Andrews was one of around 900 people who paid $50 dollars for a tattoo of a semicolon, heartbeat, or arrow during the second annual rendition of the event.
Opening up about mental health
Echo Biglands was one of the more than 20 tattoo artists from 10 local tattoo studios doing the tattoos at the Prince of Wales Armouries Heritage Centre.
"This event really helps us as well as the people getting the tattoos, because we get to hear the stories, we relate to them, we have conversations," Biglands said.
"It just takes one conversation to save a life. So that's why we're here, is just to get the word out that it should be talked about."
While the inaugural event raised $25,000, this year, it brought in close to $50,000 for Momentum walk-in counselling services.
Organizer Wendy Enberg, who chairs Edmonton Mental Health Awareness Committee, said the popularity of the event speaks to its importance.
"The semicolon resonates for a lot of people who struggle with mental illness, because it represents that your story isn't over yet," Enberg said.
"When a writer chooses to use the semicolon, it means that they didn't choose to end their sentence. So for people who live with mental illness, when you look at a semicolon, you can look at it and know that your story isn't over yet, either."