Healing emotional wounds through art and creative channels has been helpful to many.
Our desire to use art as a reflection of a personal triumph or transformation has remained since the dawn of time, with many choosing body art in the form of tattoos for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it's to tell their personal story, aid their recovery via daily visual reminders, or even simply to be an advocate to promote mental health awareness.
We talked to one of Canada's most sought after tattoo artists, Joanna Roman, to share her perspective on the growing trend of commemorating a mental health journey through meaningful — and deeply personal — tattoos.
This mindful tattoo highlights the importance — and simplicity — of taking a beat to recollect yourself when you start to spin out. Every glance at your hand serves as a reminder to go back to the basics and just pause.
"These tiny tattoos are really popular," explains Roman. "But they're small tattoos with big, big meaning."
If you know, you know. The mental health tattoo that started it all: A semicolon tattoo through the lens of mental health is a symbol of solidarity between those of us who live and struggle with a mental illness or who have lost someone to suicide.
"Semicolons are a very traditional, very popular mental health tattoo and they represent that it's not the end," explains Roman. "People use a semicolon to send the message that their story is still being written."
Ability to Change
Butterflies often represent a natural growth and transformation, starting life as a caterpillar then developing into a vibrant, colorful insect with the power and freedom to fly. This shows us that we always have the ability to change and evolve into something greater.
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This fine-line cursive script is a gentle reminder that even the most beautiful things in nature struggle before they bloom and flourish.
Climb Your Everest
One of the most common frustrations when coping with a mental illness is the feeling that the struggles are relentless. But this empowering, rugged mountain design finds strength in the struggle and making it to the other side.
"When people overcome their mental health disorder, or even if they're still struggling through it, these permanent reminders are a way of either coping with it or signify getting over it," explains Roman, who has several tattoos on her own body that symbolize challenging situations she's conquered. "Most people have stories behind their tattoos."
"Tattoos traditionally have been used to grieve or let go of something, or overcoming a struggle," says Roman. "The topic of mental health is becoming less and less taboo, it's not like it once was, and our generation is a lot more open with sharing our struggles with one another because we find so much comfort in numbers, in community."
There's no shame in taking a tumble. So go ahead, try, fail, and rise again.
Keep the Faith
In Catholic tradition, a Rosary is a sacred string of prayer beads that the faithful hold while reciting sets of prayers to receive grace, good fortune, and blessings. A Rosary tattoo around the neck or wrist represents a steadying force of faith and hope in divine purpose in the face of challenges.
Just Keep Swimming
This soft, feminine script acknowledges both what has been — moments of pain and struggle — and what is yet to come, to honor life's entire journey and choosing to look ahead, not staying stuck.
Be Your Biggest Fan
Don't let anxiety and self doubt silence your dreams. Quiet the hamster wheel of negative self-talk by replacing the harmful chatter with healthy, confident affirmations.
According to Roman, one of the most rewarding aspects of her job is hearing the stories and triumphs of each design.
"Even though their experience may have been emotionally draining, they just want a reminder about what it meant, how it changed them, and maybe broke them down," she says. "But also made them realize what was really important and shift their focus on what they value."
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