Thanks to the efforts of NAMI it’s Mental Illness Awareness Week here in the USA. This year’s theme is #CureStigma.
In light of this theme here’s something I’ve been thinking about. I’m unclear about what I should do when I’m in situations like the following one.
I was at a doctor’s office, in the examining room, with a medical assistant who was settling me onto the examining table, getting things ready for the doc.
When she reached across me to grab the blood pressure cuff I noticed that she had a tattoo on her inside left wrist. What caught my eye was that the tattoo was of a semicolon.
As you probably know, that is the tat one gets when you have, or someone you love has, engaged in self-harming behaviors; OR when you or a loved one have attempted to commit, or possibly in the case of a loved one succeeded in committing, suicide.
In general I’ve found that people with visible tattoos seem pleased when you notice the tattoo. They often have a story to tell about their tattoos and I’m willing to listen.
However, in this particular case I was reluctant to say anything, so I said nothing and just smiled like I didn’t know what I was seeing.
So my questions are:
- Would you consider a visible semicolon tattoo to be an invitation for conversation about what it means to the person with this tattoo?
- Or would you not say a word about it unless the person with the tattoo brings up the topic?
Anyone got any experience with or advice about how to handle this type of situation? I feel like there might be some kind of modern etiquette involved here, but I don’t know what it is.