In 1484 Italian printer Aldus Manutius published the semicolon for the first time. Manutius used the punctuation mark as a means of separating opposing words to allow an abrupt or rapid change in direction of differing yet interrelated clauses. Nowadays the mark is commonly used when creating lists or linking ideas and clauses in literature. A semicolon is a slight pause. It’s not a definitive endpoint. It is merely an opportunity to digress from one thought into another.

So let’s digress. Let’s leave semicolons behind for a few moments and start talking about depression, anxiety, mental health and suicide. We’ll come back to punctuation mark eventually, but let’s build a little context first.

A friend of mine recently passed away. A victim of mental health, he ended his life at the age of twenty nine. His passing left behind two loving parents, two sisters, a brother, a partner, and a group of friends so close that to call them anything other than family would be an affront to the bonds we share. We have always been a rare breed; a band of brothers whose unity transcends age, geographic location, surnames, beliefs, and anything else. We grew up together as kids, and we always assumed that we would grow old together as men.

We’d heard about suicide. Many of us have been through depression or suffered through anxiety, but we never thought that one of our own would take their life. Until it happened. We lost a brother to an illness that can destroy from the inside without any of the discernable physical side effects we often rely upon to detect disease.

And we’re not alone. The unfortunate reality of the world we live in is that there is an increasing prevalence of suicide and depression within our society that continues to grow with each passing year. Some studies are predicting that by 2030 depression and mental illness will be responsible for more disability and death than cancer. Break that down even further and compare genders side by side and the statistics are even more alarming. While mental health is statistically 20-40% higher in women, men are four times more likely to end their life as a result of a depressive state of mind.

Why? Because men are stubborn. We’re arrogant. And we are quite literally killing ourselves as opposed to accepting and acknowledging that we are struggling. We live in a society that is supposed to by highly intuitive, intelligent and ultimately accepting and accommodating. Yet for some bizarre reason men across the globe still feel as though emotions and angst are matters to be suppressed rather than spoken about.

But we have to talk. As difficult as it may seem we need to create conversation on a global scale, and perhaps more importantly, we need to talk in our homes. We as men need to find a way to put to rest our archaic beliefs and macho-mentalities and start having open and honest dialogues with those closest to us. There’s no shame in admitting that you are not OK. There’s no indignity in asking for help. There is however, honor in being a voice of reason or an ear of support for someone in need.

In my lowest moments I have contemplated my own death. Questions about my own morality usually strike at the strangest of moments. I once found myself driving down a highway wondering what would happen if I were to crash. Would the world simply go black? Would I feel anything? Would it almost feel as though I had fallen asleep? Before I knew what I was doing I had shut my eyes for a few moments just to imagine the blackness of the end while I raced down the motorway. But I opened by eyes and the world was still in front of me; and my life continued. I didn’t want to die. I just wanted to know what it felt like so that I could tell myself that whatever I was living through was better than not living at all.

It took me a long time to overcome my demons, and even now I struggle to accept the person that I am. I often wish that I were more like everyone else; that I didn’t want to make a difference, and that I could move with the vast majority rather than dig my heels in and strive to be a voice of change. Yet even though I still have moments of loathing and self-doubt,  things eventually got better for me. They always do.

Which brings us back our lesson in punctuation. A semicolon is not a definitive endpoint. It’s a slight pause: an opportunity to link and digress. Anxiety and depression can be tough, and at times a situation can feel hopeless. But there is always a light at the end of the tunnel of despair. There is always an opportunity to create a semicolon in your life and digress towards something new. Suicide is an endpoint. It is an act that cuts your story short and ruins the opportunity for your life to get better. But that funny little dot and dash that we often misuse in literature provides us with the opportunity to transition from a state of anxiety and depression to recovery.

Life is a beautiful gift, and one that should never be taken for granted. If you are down, or if you know someone who is struggling I implore you to reach out. Ask for help, or lend an ear to someone in need. It’s all right to not be OK. It’s not OK to bury our heads in the sand and pretend like anxiety and depression aren’t killing people. It’s time that society, and men in particular, find their voice and start talking about mental health. It’s time to move past our chauvinistic habits of suppressing and ignoring psychological torment and anguish. Find your semicolon, or become one for a stranger or someone you care about.

Life can always get better. You just have to give it a chance.

**Author’s note. Aaron Sorkin once said that ‘Good writers borrow from other writers. Great writers steal from the outright.’ The concept of the semicolon was stolen from a brilliant organisation called Project Semicolon. If you ever need a ray of hope, pay them a visit. If you ever need help or someone to talk to, there are countless organisations across the globe who can assist.**

Author: Chris Nicholas

Chris Nicholas is an author from Brisbane, Australia. He has published two novels, and is currently working on his third.

86 thoughts on “;”

  1. I love the link between the semi-colon and depression – it shouldn’t be an endpoint for anyone. male or female. I have suffered from bouts of depression since I was a teenager and I have learnt to embrace the semicolon in the same way as I have learnt to embrace depression by writing it out of my system.

  2. Good post. I guess suicide thoughts or suicidal ideation is more common now because we do talk about things more. Oprah and other talk shows got people to be more vulnerable in crowds. I also went through depression dealing with some issues in 1987 and tried to OD an aspirin and Vodka or Everclear. I also wanted to live and proceeded to force myself to throw up in the guys bathroom. I know several other students at Indiana University who tried some personally some anecdotally. Maybe this is just more common than we once thought as people are more honest and open nowadays.

  3. Great post. I discovered your blog ’cause you liked one of my posts a few weeks back and must admit, following your blog has been a stroke of luck.

    I’m writing a post about how Emojis have disrupted our use of language and how they’ve evolved from the days of Nokia 3310’s and SMS – would love to have a quote/paragraph from you on the topic.


  4. I really enjoyed reading this post. Love how you linked depression with a grammatical symbol like the semicolon. But its really nice to read posts like this where people talk about subjects most people find uncomfortable or hard to understand.

  5. Oh Chris,
    thanks for your text
    I hope you the best!

    Make it work
    Make it simple
    Or not
    Perheps triple?

    Have a light
    In the night
    Then bite
    Fly a kite

    every thing Gets better
    Write a letter
    Get together

    During the day
    End of a bay

    In the boom
    There is soon
    Hope of new
    Better view

  6. So sorry to hear of your loss, but thankful that you can write about such a serious topic so eloquently. Very inspiring, I hope that people can open up more and talk about their issues – we only get one chance at life, it’s just too short to battle on alone. Thanks again for a beautifully written post. Peace to you and yours.

  7. I’m sorry for your loss. I love the fact that you still find a way to shed a positive light. In fact, people do need to open up and talk openly about it, although it is definitely a hard thing to do at first.

    All the best,


  8. Very important post. Suicide is fast becoming a life choice…do I go to uni, TAFE, get a trade, struggle as an artist, get a mind-numbing job or check out? Hmmm…life is a risk and never more ridiculously so than in these democratic days of so-called equal opportunity. The world is run on graft and nepotism and the pressure to become a cog in the wheel of the economic machine is intense. Only those who make good money, hold down a “decent” job and are buying into the social expectations (house, kids, marriage, retirement fund, super, blah) will find unequivocal acceptance. The rest of us deviants have to brave it alone, defend our life choices and weather the ridicule. Sometimes checking out seems easier…the next world just may be kinder. It’s harder for men because they actually have fewer options. But if they can find acceptance among their peers and talk about it…talk about it!!! there is hope.

  9. Unfortunately, it is with great conviction that I agree with the parallels that you drew between depression and semicolon. I too, feel the throngs of depression. At times I kneel down in submission, but I can also feel limitless joy.
    At any given moment, what I feel is so arbitrary. I wake up and my day is set. Some days I choose to acknowledge my anguish more. Some days I focus on the little things in life… Maybe that’s how it’s supposed to be? I don’t know.
    But I think you’re right. We should talk about it more as people in general. And share it with the people we love. Because love isn’t just all the good moments. It’s messy. Like writing with semicolons. That’s messy… :/

  10. What a fantastic post. I am terribly sorry for your loss and congratulate you on affording a heart-breaking scenario the opportunity to be important and meaningful.

  11. “Life is a beautiful gift, and one that should never be taken for granted.” Such a powerful message, thank you for sharing. I’m so sorry to hear about your dear friend.

  12. Hi Chris. Sorry to hear about your friend. Not that it helps but three of my best mates took their own lives, Two of them were brothers. I’ve never seen such pain in the face of their third and older brother. The truth is while we consider ourselves to be living in a ‘new’ and ‘modern’ world where we possess greater knowledge of people’s anguish, really people still don’t reach out when they could.

    I can totally understand it. I suffer from terrible anxiety and have always somehow managed to keep a lid on it. I mentioned it to someone the other day in casual conversation assuming they knew what I was talking about but no, they screwed up their face and awkwardly asked what was I going on about? They had no idea anything about my problems though they work on a fairly high level in a Westminster London firm.

    ‘Life is a beautiful gift, and one that should never be taken for granted’. I so agree and have readjusted my life to accommodate my anxiety. Life is amazing and full of energy. Its a stunning world we live in and I’ve found that semi-colon.

    Thanks for sharing Chris. Best to you!

  13. So sorry about your friend. It is awful enough to lose someone special without the suicide part.. May he rest in peace!
    Thank you for your post. Great writing! The honesty is admirable. Keep seeing and sharing the light.

  14. I think you have written very honestly, and I truly appreciate that. It is sometimes very difficult to do, especially when discussing one’s own experience with depression. I do agree with you that men need to open up about it more. So sorry to hear about your friend’s passing – that must have been very difficult.
    “It’s all right to not be OK” – more people need to hear that sentence of yours and often. Thank you for an honest and inspirational post. Well written.

  15. Thank you for sharing so skilfully Chris! Bsorry for your loss.

    With decades of professional experience working with mental health, with suicide, with men and with men’s health … my conclusion is that every single one of us are precious.  The gift of life is incredibly precious and when things get bleak always remember that nothing is set in concrete, everything is constantly changing.  No matter how hopeless or helpless you feel there is always someone ready to hold your hand if you will just reach out.  We are all interdependent, nobody is an island.

    And when we are cruising it helps to check on how others are.  How they’re coping mentally – physical injuries are visible and treatable.  Mental challenges can and do improve with support, reach out and ask someone – you know who will be receptive! Or if like Andy they miss the point, try a professional.

    Communication and connection are the tools to empower resilience … We all have inner resilience, its just that sometimes we need a friend to remind us – and they can’t help unless you ask.

  16. Great post and I’m happy to have found this blog. Thank for visiting mine. I’m absolutely passionate about punctuation, odd as that sounds, but also am very familiar with depression. A wonderful link here between the two. Thank you for starting this conversation and I’m sorry for the circumstances that you’ve experienced that inspired this post.

  17. Part of you talking about some lowly moments in your life struck a chord in me. When sometimes I think it is just a phase towards living the kind of life we want, expect and accept more so of facing the reality that as we continue to live our lives, peaks and lows are always imminent in the horizon. I agree that we just got to talk and be open. I am sorry about your friend but thank you for sharing this thoughts. Be well, Farrell.

  18. Suicide and depression is too common among LGBT youth. Contact thetrevorproject.org for support, which can be anonymous if you prefer. Don’t let the hateful voices in our world turn you against yourself.

  19. Thank you for your honesty… I can only say this hits so close to home …and the pain is enormous…I pray for healing of your heart…we can only go forth doing our best to love people well…

  20. You dropped by my blog and “liked” a post on the enduring value of Dante’s Hell. The Italian poet assigned suicides to the seventh circle of Hell, which is marked by sins of violence against others, violence against self, and violence against God (blasphemers, homosexuals, usurers). Every time I read about the forest of suicides I am terrified, and rightly so. Suicide, according to this medieval Catholic, deserves a grave punishment because when a person kills his body, he assumes a divine prerogative: God alone gives life and takes life. Put differently, the Author of life ends the sentence, not me. I am to celebrate the precious gift of living, even when my spirits are depressed. When we suffer, we need loving people who will infuse us with a hope against hope — that life is worth living, even if it feels hellish because no amount of suffering in this life compares to the suffering in Hell. Late moderns are unlikely to agree with Dante, but it is worth hearing an older and, perhaps, wiser voice.

  21. I thought about getting a tattoo of a semi-colon. It seems like the only one that I would get. My brother killed himself when I was 17. I was his triplet sister. Not a day goes by that I don’t miss him. He would have never left had he known, in reality, what that looked like after he did. I know he didn’t mean to hurt us. He was hurting so bad and never said anything. he thought that at age 17, this was all there was. He never grew up, had a family, or a career. He never made memories. Our family fell apart. We don’t speak to one another. We all have grown cold and have lost our way. This year, they all decided to have a Christmas gathering but didn’t invite me. Long story, but they don’t like me. Maybe I deserve it. I just got out of an abusive church. I sometimes think I should die too..because life often feels like death to me. Can it get any worse? I wonder. But I keep going because I have kids and a husband that would repeat this cycle. I keep moving because I have to. I keep moving for them, not for me. Thank you for being a voice to us who are struggling.

  22. It feels rather strange to hit the “like” button but I did so because of your articulate, moving writing. I’m so sorry for your loss. Suicide is such a horrible thing for so many reasons. One can only hope that, now, his soul is at peace.

  23. What a beautiful piece of writing. “But I opened by eyes and the world was still in front of me” How simple and profound this is, wish I had written it, heh. I’m inspired to brush up on my grammar.

    I’m sorry for your friend, my first wife took her own life. She also had mental health issues. It was a few years after we separated and she had remarried. In considering how I felt I can only say I felt as I had lost my friend and someone I spent time with. The hardest thing for us I think, is to know that what we wish to find has left our ability to find it.

    Take care

  24. I don’t know if my comment here will make any difference, but…
    I kind of grew up in a not that a good working family, I suffer from a very high level of social anxiety, and often wonder if I have some kind of mental illness. Some years ago (“some years” because I’m pretty young) I just happened to see no meaning for my life. From seeing how helpless I was, I just felt like I should help other people, but I rarely could, because I can barely ask for information from a stranger. I admire a lot people who do at least small things to help others, like guiding a blind person through the campus (something I see here sometimes), and those people are what I wanted to be. In the end, after getting to even physically hurt myself for frustration, knowing it would make no difference, I got my wits back, and felt inspired. I started writing some verses and eventually making a song. I called the first one “The Lone Man”, and it was my attempt the describe how I felt. It was a pretty depressing song, but I felt like it wasn’t as depressing enough. Then I continued on, making more and more sad songs, and I still do this to this day. Funny that, after I showed one of those to my Portuguese teacher, she did some kind of motivational speech for me, and she liked the song so much that she said I should have taken the song to an art exposition that happened here in my school (even though the song was written in English, and we rarely find people who can speak the language here). Of course I refused, because I’d rather not expose myself, specially in front of people who know me. So I still kept holding my feelings to myself, even considering suicide, but not daring because that would tear my mother’s soul apart. In the end, I made a website here, where only people I don’t know, and will never see me personaly, come. And here I expose my compositions from time to time. Still, it feels like I’m opening myself to someone, and that actually helps me. I made the website my “emotional punch bag”. So… if you literaly can’t talk to anyone and have, let’s say, no friends at all, like me, there is always an alternative, even if it is the craziest thing possible. If you can’t stand your own being, remember that killing yourself only makes it even worse – not to yourself, but to the ones who love you. So live, and let this alone be your good deed.

  25. Thank you for sharing your experience and providing a perspective that is often not thought about: the friend left behind. The Semicolon Project is something that has taken off here in Canada and I hope that it helps people, not just who get it tattooed on their body but those who may see it on someone that they might not even know.

  26. Wonderful, thoughtful post unfortunately spurned by the death of a comrade. Sad to read of your group’s loss but happy to find your site. Best to you and remain positive…like the exclamation point!

  27. I lost my brother-in-law to depression and suicide this year. Thanks for the insight. There is a lot of pressure out there and much of it, we put on ourselves.
    Thanks for stopping by my blog. I looked at your name and thought that is the most Christmassy name ever. I LOVE it! I’m all about Christmas. Nice to meet you!

  28. Hi Chris,
    I usually am the kinds who doesn’t stop to comment or appreciate someone’s writing or thoughts. Not because I’m too picky but simply because I’m not completely taken in by the virtual world. However this post made me stop and how.
    A year ago my neighbour committed suicide and it was probably the first time I saw someone in their last moments, transitioning between life and death. I didn’t know the man, he was just someone I would see in the elevator every now and then and on good days I would play with his dog. But that day everything changed. I felt like I was partly responsible. Maybe I could have been a friend. Maybe he needed a friend. Maybe he just wanted someone to talk to. Maybe… I could have done something more than just cry at his funeral. But sadly life doesn’t give us another chance.
    While the world is talking about gender equality (especially my part of the globe. read: India), I find it very important to educate people about what gender equality actually is. Boys are raised believing that they have to become a “Man”. And that implies, that they must never cry, they must not be weak, they must not be the one who gets dumped! This single thought needs to change and its a lot more complicated than we think. It requires people like you to talk about it and explain it beautifully without offending their ‘manhood’.
    Thank you for writing this and for thinking the way you think. The world needs more people like you. After all, we’re in it together!

    1. Hi Natasha,
      Thank you for your kind words and for sharing both your story, and your neighbours as well. There is definitely societal barriers that need to be broken to aid our understanding of mental health and suicide prevention. I would be honoured to assist such a worthwhile cause through my writing.
      Thank you again for stopping by.

  29. Very sorry to hear about your friend. I was a paramedic and a medical examiner in my last life. Sadly, when someone is depressed enough to commit suicide, they aren’t in a place to ask for help. They are standing at the edge of that deep well of darkness and they see no way out. I had family members ask me “why?” There are no real answers, although we would all like to believe we could have saved this person. The biggest thing we as friends, family, partners can do is be vigilent for any signs that our loved ones might be suffering (however small the signs could be) and make sure we are constantly giving them our support and love. Sadly, though, this may not even be enough…. ❤

  30. Thank-you for bringing this up and talking about it from a man’s perspective. One can only hope in time that is will be less of a ‘hush-hush’ topic if we keep bringing it to the forefront. I am sorry for the lost of your friend, and I applaud you for turning it into something positive. Xo

  31. Thank you for sharing this. I, too, have lost a loved one from a mental illness. My thoughts are with you.

  32. Well written and very true. Thanks for reading my humble blog. I just wish I wrote as well as you do. I am sorry to hear about you loss though, best wishes love and whitelight x

  33. i’ve closed my eyes on the motorway also for similar reasons. thanks for reminding me that i’m not alone.

    nowadays I see the semicolon mostly with the closed parentheses sign “;)”, quite a mutation from the original?


  34. Thanks for writing this. As sister-in-law to a woman who struggles with depression, I often fear for her. Your post gave me hope, not sure why, but it did. It helped me understand her more.

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