How A Semicolon Tattoo Helped This Woman Find Strength After Her Brother's Suicide

'My world was turned upside down forever.'

Semicolon tattoos have become a symbol of hope for those affected by a mental illness - and now, one woman has shared the poignant story behind hers.

Hayleigh Hocking's brother Ben took his own life on 15 May this year, just 19 months after they lost their mother.

In a heart-wrenching Facebook post, Hayleigh paid tribute to her brother and her mother, and spoke out about the devastating impact their loss had on her.

While her post was incredibly sad, she said she hopes it helps play a part in breaking down mental health stigma and encourages others to seek help.

"If I help one person in this world, then that is enough, and I've done my job," she wrote.

Hayleigh, who is 28 and from Melbourne, Australia, wrote a powerful Facebook post which was shared on the Project Semicolon page.

She explained how four weeks ago she lost her 22-year-old brother Ben who had a full-time job, loving family and a 19-month-old daughter.

"On Sunday May 15th my world was turned upside down forever," Hayleigh wrote.

"We had only just lost Mum, 19 months earlier. What else did life think we could possibly handle?"

Hayleigh explained that Ben left the house that evening and tragically never returned.

Hayleigh said that her brother only drank occasionally, he wasn't involved in drugs and that he always seemed to be happy.

"There were no signs. No warnings. No note," she wrote.

In memory of her brother, and to remind herself to stay strong, Hayleigh had a semicolon tattooed onto her arm.

"I got my semicolon tattoo because everyday it would be easy for me to choose to go and be with my brother and mother," she explained.

"But I choose not to. I choose to now help break the stigma of mental illness.

"If I help one person in this world, then that is enough, and I've done my job. So their family won't have to wake up each morning to the living, breathing hell that my family and I have to face."

She added that she was "choosing to try and help people understand that it's okay not to be okay".

"I know I'll meet them both again when it's my time to go to heaven but not yet, not yet," she concluded.

The semicolon tattoo has become a symbol related to the struggle of depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide. It represents a person's will to continue on - a belief that this is not the end, but a new beginning.

Hayleigh's brave post has received an influx of comments and messages from people who have endured similar experiences.

Patricia Burris shared a photo of her semicolon tattoo. She wrote: "I attempted suicide last year when I was going through a manic state. I look back now and I think of all the people I hurt. I think about how devastated my family would've been.

"What I did was bad enough. Had I not survived? Who knows what pain I would have inflicted?

"There is never anything that should cause [some]one [to] take their life. You can always ask for help or confide in someone close to you. Even reach out via this group. I would definitely not judge! I'm sure others feel the same.

"There is always a hand to reach for. Life is a precious gift. Never give up!"

Useful Links

Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill.)

Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm. Call 0300 123 3393.

Get Connected is a free advice service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email:

HopeLine runs a confidential advice helpline if you are a young person at risk of suicide or are worried about a young person at risk of suicide. Mon-Fri 10-5pm and 7pm-10pm. Weekends 2pm-5pm. Call on 0800 068 41 41.

[H/T Metro]

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