Interview with Amy Bleuel, Founder of Project Semicolon
1) Your personal story is so moving and you share it so openly on ProjectSemicolon’s site. You don’t have to go through everything, but what are some of the things that led to you struggling with depression and suicide?
Growing up for me I experienced some great pain, from abuse, to rape, to even the loss of my own father to suicide. Not only did I already struggle with my own mental illness, but to have these experiences it further my depression to thoughts and attempts of suicide.
2) You said that a big part of what helped was meeting and marrying your husband and that was one of the first times you’d really experienced health love. Can you tell us more about how helpful that relationship has been?
To have that connection with someone on a deeper level and to know what true love is something that has helped me grow as an individual, allowing me to love others more effectively in return. It has also allowed me to love myself with the same capacity.
3) Additionally, you have written about how faith has helped you deal with depression as well. How does your faith help you daily, and what would you like others to know about faith and religion’s power in daily life?
Faith for me plays big around the aspect of love and hope. I have had the opportunity to have people come into my life and love me with a Christ like love. Through that love I am empowered to continue my story and spread that same love to others. To have faith in something bigger than yourself allows you to keep striving for something more, something bigger.
4) Project Semicolon was founded as a way to honor your father, who committed suicide. Can you tell us more about him? Did you know he was struggling as well?
My father was a great man. He loved unconditionally. He gave of himself endlessly. Through out his life my father struggled with depression and thoughts of suicide. I was not aware at the time though that he was struggling, as the last time I saw him I was 8 years old.
5) Can you explain to our readers about the significance of the semicolon? How did you come up with this as the symbol for your movement?
A semicolon is used when an author chooses not to end a sentence. We are saying you are the author and the sentence is your life and you are choosing to continue. The best way to put the conception of the semicolon was that it was conceived in a perfect storm scenario.
6) You encourage people to share their stories. How many people have shared and why do you do this? Is it in order to offer some informal support or is it also geared towards reducing stigma?
We have over a 1,000 stories that have been shared. The reason we ask our followers share their stories is to provide that support to others so they know they are not alone as well as give break down the stigma associated with these topics.
7) Why do you think there is such stigma toward those with mental illness? Similarly, why do people in general seem to have misconceptions about those who commit suicide or struggle with suicidal thoughts?
Mental health is a taboo subject. No one wants to talk about something that they can’t see, thus can’t understand. People have this misconception about suicide because society has portrayed to them this corrupt concept thus they believe it. If we change the conversation we can change the way people look at it and address it.
8) What role do you think the media can play in spreading prejudices about suicide and mental illness?
How they talk about it and from what angle they cover it. As stated above if we change the conversation we can change the way people look at it and address it.
9) How can people out there share their stories with Project Semicolon? How can our readers support it in other ways?
Stories can be shared on our website at projectsemicolon.com. To support in other ways they are welcome to donate or even volunteer with us when the opportunity arises. Ultimately we ask that they spread the word about us by mouth and keep the conversation going.
10) What are some events or plans that Project Semicolon has for the future?
We are in the process of producing a book with HarperCollins of pictures and stories of those who found hope to continue their own stories. ProjectSemicolon actively involved in community events and schools in which I speak at. We are also in the process of booking community events of our own in the Wisconsin area.
If you need help or you are worried about someone in your life, you can always contact The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for help.