The metaphor is easy to understand. A semicolon breaks up a sentence, nearly stops it; but then allows it to continue again, maybe in a new direction. That’s why the semicolon tattoo has become a popular symbol among those battling depression and addiction. Those things try to stop you, but (like a sentence with a semicolon) you can go on.
To continue the metaphor, suicide — the worst result of addiction and depression — would be represented by a period. The semicolon acknowledges an ending, but comes ready to help make a new beginning. Project Semicolon is a faith-based nonprofit working to spread the word and the love and the continuation. But the semicolon movement has moved beyond its beginnings there, finding embrace in secular groups, too. The semicolon tattoo has become popular as a permanent reminder of life’s possibilities.