How Tattoos Have Empowered Those With Mental Health Issues

By David Konow 08/05/19

In recent years, tattoos have come to serve as a reminder to keep fighting for people with mental health issues.

tattoo artist working on client with mental health issues

Tattoos aren’t just an art form, they’re also a form of personal expression for many who get them. And as a report in Well + Good explains, for some people, tattoos are an important part of maintaining mental health as well.

When one woman, Annie Jacobson, got a tattoo on her arm that reads "Be Here Now," she was looking back on a time when her anxiety caused a mental meltdown.

“Almost exactly a year prior to getting the tattoo, my anxiety had reached an all-time high, and it had spiraled out of control in a way that my therapist could no longer give me the help I needed.”

Jacobson did eventually recover, but when she finally got the tattoo, “I knew it wasn’t over – my struggle will never be over – but I wanted a way to remember how much had changed in a year. I wanted something to look at to remind me to be present and live in the moment.”

Demi & Selena

As this report explains, people getting tattoos as mental health reminders has become more popular in recent years. Demi Lovato, who has been very open about her mental health struggles, has the words "stay" and "strong" tattooed on her wrists.

Recently, Selena Gomez also got semicolon tattoos with Tommy Dorman and Alisha Boe from 13 Reasons Why. The semicolon tattoo represents empowerment for those with mental health and addiction issues.

As one mental health professional explains, “For the person who chooses to get a tattoo, many times it’s a much deeper process of reflection. What’s the point of getting a tattoo, what purpose will this serve, what’s the symbolism – a tattoo serves something deeper for that individual involved. For example, a star might mean something deeper, like a life lost.”

A tattoo artist in Brooklyn named Joice Wang is also offering free tattoos to help people cover up their self-harm scars, as long as they donate money to a mental health charity. As Wang says, “This way I’m able to tackle two issues: funding the necessary resources for people who are going through anything traumatic or need assistance in any way, and also covering up scars.”

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In addition to contributing for The Fix, David Konow has also written for Esquire, Deadline, LA Weekly, Village Voice, The Wrap, and many other publications and websites. He is also the author of the three decade history of heavy metal, Bang Your Head (Three Rivers Press), and the horror film history Reel Terror (St Martins Press). Find David on LinkedIn and Facebook.