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How Tattoos Are Changing The Stigma Of Mental Illness And Trauma

September 10, 2015

Recently, a Facebook post made by a young student named Bekah Miles had gone viral. In the post, Bekah describes her battle with depression and the way it has affected her every part of her life, and made it difficult for her to function. The stigma that depression carries makes it difficult for her to communicate her illness, but she decided that it was time to have a frank conversation about mental illness. She wrote: “Last year, I was diagnosed with depression. And in all honesty, I believe it was a problem for quite a while before that, but I think it just got worse to the point of hardly functioning. So today, I got this tattoo. I feel that my leg was the best place for the meaning behind it. When everyone else sees it, they see “I’m fine,” but from my viewpoint, it reads “save me.” To me, it means that others see this person that seems okay, but, in reality, is not okay at all. It reminds me that people who may appear happy, may be at battle with themselves.”

Bekah’s Facebook post has been shared thousands of times, and has racked up numerous positive and friendly comments. While Bekah’s tattoo won’t be able to completely eradicate the stigma behind mental illness, she was able to start a conversation and build a community amongst well-wishers and fellow sufferers on Facebook. Another person who is using tattoos to combat the stigmas of mental illness is a tattoo artist named Flavia Carvalho. Carvalho volunteers tattoos designs to cover up scars from domestic violence and physical abuse. She calls the project “A Pele da Flor,” or “The Skin of the Flower,” and the art has already had a transformative effect on the women who have received them. The scars, instead of being reminders of feelings of shame and pain, have become symbols of recovery and reclamation. The memories of fear that the women may have had during the incident which caused the scarring, may fade away to memories of getting the tattoo and reclaiming that part of their body.

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