Survivors, moms get tattoos for suicide prevention

December 8, 2018
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In this photo taken Nov. 30, 2018, "Salty" Jack Reed Jr. puts the finishing touches on Davina Cole's formline semicolon tattoo at Taku Tattoo in Juneau, Alaska. At Taku Tattoo recently business card-sized tattoos were $50 with half of the proceeds going toward Juneau Suicide Prevention Coalition. (Ben Hohenstatt/The Juneau Empire via AP)

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — People wearing hats and coats huddled and chatted, sending condensation from their breath and words into the air.

The small crowd was waiting for Taku Tattoo to open its doors at 10 a.m. and begin scheduling appointments for a suicide prevention tattoo special. For Friday, Nov. 30, business card-sized tattoos were $50 with half of the proceeds going toward Juneau Suicide Prevention Coalition.

“The response has been incredible,” said shop manager Amy Ridle.

Kathryn Beers was part of the morning crowd, and she planned to get “Be Kind ;” tattooed in honor of her friend’s deceased brother, Tommy Weeks.

“It’s a reminder to be kind to myself as well as others,” Beers said.

The semicolon included with the simple phrase is in reference to the punctuation mark’s status as a suicide prevention symbol. The mark shows that an author could have ended a sentence, but chose instead to continue.

The planned tattoo is Beers’ second. She received her first in August.

“I figured, what the hell, I’m not getting any younger,” Beers said. “When they say tattoos are addicting, they aren’t kidding.”

Her first tattoo, a depiction of fireweed, is also a personal symbol.

As a survivor of gender-based violence, Beers said she found the resilient plant inspirational and had it tattooed on the back of her ankle, where it could put down roots.

“No matter what you do, the fireweed comes back,” Beers said.

First-time tattoos and moms

Jonathan Funk was one of the first-timers getting a tattoo. He was wearing a suicide prevention sweatshirt when he showed up to sign up for an appointment.

“I’m getting it because suicide is an issue that’s near and dear to my heart,” Funk said.

He declined to share more but said a semicolon tattoo was something he had been thinking of getting for a while, and the prevention event offered a great opportunity to get it.

When Funk returned to get his water color-inspired tattoo, he was joined by his mom, Pat Funk, who was there for support.

“He sold it,” she said. “I was pretty hesitant. Who knows, I might be in here one of these days.”

That day had come for Theresa Hinchman and her daughter, Erica Ranney who was visiting from Prince of Wales. Each got matching butterfly tattoos that incorporated semicolons.

They were in memory of Hinchman’s daughter and Ranney’s sister, who they lost to suicide.

“Since it’s for suicide prevention, I just wanted to be in town,” Ranney said.

Hinchman was pleased with her tattoo and after it was completed took cellphone photos of their matching ink.

“I love it,” she said.

Davina Cole also had her heart set on a semicolon design.

Cole’s semicolon was a self-designed piece that included elements of the Northwest art form formline based on input from Tlingit artist Wayne Price.

“I got excited about trying it out in formline,” Cole said. “I consider myself more of a dabbler.”

And she stressed the importance of the suicide prevention.

“Anything about suicide awareness is very important, especially in this town,” Cole said.

She said when people are lost to suicide, it’s often swept under the rug and not talked about.

“That’s not how you deal with an epidemic,” Cole said.

Group effort

Jan Reece, outreach coordinator for Juneau Suicide Prevention Coalition, said she was impressed with interest in the event.

Before 11 a.m. almost 20 people had already signed up to get tattoos, and nearly 70 people had expressed interest in doing so on Facebook.

“I don’t know when we’ll cut it off,” Ridle said. “We’re ready to stay late.”

The idea for the fundraiser and recognition of Survivor Day, which was Nov. 17, came from collaboration between Ridle and Juneau Suicide Prevention Coalition employees, and it received a boost from other Juneau businesses.

Reece said the special event was supported by a baked goods donation from Pie in the Sky, lunch for the tattoo artists from Juneau Pizza and a flower arrangement from Martha’s Flowers & Gifts.

“I’m really impressed with the stories we’ve been able to share,” Reece said.

She was also pleased with what the community support will enable her organization to do.

“We’re going to use the funding to bring a documentary to the Gold Town the first of the year,” Reece said.

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