Project Semicolon founder dies

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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - A Green Bay woman who started a movement bringing awareness to mental illness has passed away.

Amy Bleuel was 31.

She died March 24th by suicide.

But Thursday mental health leaders in northeastern Wisconsin remembered the legacy she left through Project Semicolon.

Project Semicolon is a movement to help people battling depression and self-harm.

Bleuel used her struggle with mental illness and the struggles of those around her to start the awareness project in 2013.

The founder of the Center for Suicide Awareness Barb Bigalke calls it a movement.

"The movement that Amy started was incredible; because everybody struggles,” Bigalke said. “So she took that you know what everybody struggles and what if we had an actual symbol behind that."

That symbol became a semicolon used when a writer chooses to continue a sentence rather than end it.

We spoke to Bleuel back in April of 2015 as her movement took shape.

That symbol ended up tattooed on those who struggle mental illness across the world as they chose to stay strong.

A leader from the Brown County Coalition for Suicide Prevention who worked with Bleuel says her legacy will continue to stay strong, too.

"And that's the beauty of a semi-colon that's it's sentence that continues on,” Strommen said. “I know from her aspect that if she were here living today she would say the same thing stay strong and love endlessly."

Both Bigalke and Strommen say Bleuel's ability to break through mental health stigmas will continue as a model for the future.

"For her to actually be willing to talk about her struggles, her battles, to share her story literally around the world, is an incredible thing," said Strommen.

An obituary says Amy leaves behind a husband, David.

Family and friends are invited to a service at Pfotenhauer Funeral Home on Saturday, April 1.


People have been leaving messages of support on the Project Semicolon Facebook page:

Statement from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention:

"We recently learned of the death of Amy Bleuel, the founder of Project Semicolon. Ms. Bleuel was a dedicated mental health advocate who devoted herself to raising awareness of mental health and the importance of reaching out when you need help. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention offers our condolences to Amy Bleuel’s family, her friends, and everyone touched by Amy’s honest spirit. Based on reports, we understand that Ms. Bleuel died by suicide.

"With her prolific semi-colon campaign, she brought real awareness to an issue that is often misunderstood and can be complex in nature. Amy’s life was a testament that one person truly can make a difference. She had a powerful voice that gave others the confidence to speak openly about mental health.

"It is important to note that there is no single cause of suicide. Suicide most often occurs when several stressors and health issues converge to create an experience of hopelessness and despair. However, most people who actively manage their mental health conditions lead fulfilling lives. We must do more to prevent such tragic deaths through greater awareness of mental health issues, common warning signs, effective interventions and treatments. Suicide is preventable, and we all have a role to play to end the tragedy of suicide. Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S."

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