Keltz, an Emmy Award-winning producer who lives in Toronto, has dealt with depression most of his life. With his new tattoo, he’s joined a growing movement that has adopted the semicolon as a symbol of solidarity and awareness among people struggling with their mental health and others who support them.
Keltz, known for hit children’s television series The Magic School Bus and Goosebumps, was inspired by the number of educators who started sharing their personal stories about dealing with mental illness on blogs and Twitter.
He says his decision to put the tattoo in a visible spot and to start speaking about his own experience was largely driven by his professional work as co-founder of the educational project CritterKin, which promotes emotional literacy and empathy in kids.
The semicolon craze, which began with people drawing the symbol on themselves in ink and soon exploded into tattoos on arms, ankles, necks and behind ears, originated with Amy Bleuel of Green Bay, Wisconsin.
Bleuel, 29, founded the non-profit Project Semicolon in 2013, a decade after losing her father to suicide and in the wake of her own years of despair and self-injury, to try and provide hope and support for people with mental illness.
Seeing the message take off on social media and zillions of images posted of the same semicolon tattoo she has on her arm “brings me comfort and hope and is a reminder of what I’m trying to do out there,” Bleuel said in an interview.
But Jayson Pham of Toronto notes the whole point of the semicolon is to keep the conversation going around mental health, including what’s needed to help the one in five Canadians coping with mental illness.
“When I look at it, it reminds me that I am strong, that I am the author of my own story,” says Pham, who was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder following a car accident, and later severe depression. He is now a youth mental health advocate.
“It reminds me of how far I have come.”