36 Tattoos That Give Us Hope For Mental Health Recovery

Because our mental health is always with us — and because tattoos can be a permanent reminder of where we’ve been and where we want to go — The Mighty asked their community to send pictures of their ink inspired by mental health challenges.

If you think the tattoos are amazing, the stories behind them are even better.

Take a look:

1. “This is to remind me that it’s not my fault. Seratonin is lacking in my brain. We are all warriors in this fight against mental illness.” — Paige Johnson


(Photo: Paige Johnson)

2. “It’s the eating disorder recovery symbol.” — Brooke Ainsley


(Photo: Brooke Ainsley)

3. “Tattoos are so important to my mental health. They’re how I give myself reminders I wouldn’t believe otherwise. I chose to leave that mark there, to leave a moment of hope on myself. I don’t trust hope when it comes from other people, so the self-direction and permanence of tattoos goes a long way.” — Olivia James


(Photo: Olivia James)

4. “I’m not an expert on pain and I’m not an expert on healing, but I do know this: Both are part of life.” — Alyse Ruriani


(Photo: Alyse Ruriani)

5. “‘Stars can’t shine without the darkness.’ Even when things in my head aren’t OK, it won’t be dark for long because I’m a shining star in my own right.” — Erica Marie


(Photo: Erica Marie)

6. “I’ll never give up, I’m a fighter.” — Jenna Pleasants


(Photo: Jenna Pleasants)

7. “This is the tattoo I’m proudest of.” — Kris Lindsey


(Photo: Kris Lindsey)

8. “Pi, a mathematical constant, reminds me that even when my world feels like it’s falling apart, there’s still a constant in the world. The semicolon reminds me I need to keep going even when I don’t feel like I can or don’t want to. A Bible verse reminds me of the big picture I sometimes fail to see when I’m depressed.” — Julianne Leow


temporary tattoo (Photo: Julianne Leow)

9. “Ataraxia — it means ‘tranquility of the mind.‘” — Jacklyn Ashley


(Photo: jacklyn.lune)

10. “Covering a scar. My reminder that no matter how deep the depression gets, I have reasons for my heart to keep beating” — Courtney Bowles

Related: Please Stop Saying ‘Committed’ Suicide


(Photo: Courtney Bowles)

11. “The bottom tattoo is for eating disorder recovery. I survived anorexia when I was 14. The top tattoo is for my struggle and recovery from postpartum mental illness. It tried to take my life, but I’m still here and now I’m full of joy and thriving!” — Alicia Nelsen


(Photo: Alicia Nelsen)

12. “Reminds me that my post-traumatic stress disorder flashbacks and all the pain are in the past. And my story is just beginning.” — Kimberly Elizabeth King


(Photo: Kimberly Elizabeth King)

13. “In Harry Potter, the spell ‘riddikulus’ is used to ward off a bogart (bogarts take the shape of your greatest fear. They live in closets and under the bed for example). I got this to remind myself my anxiety isnt going to beat me. My anxiety attacks will pass. Sometimes I just need a little magic to keep those inner demons at bay.” — Nicole Ricketts


(Photo: Nicole Ricketts)

14. “I have post-traumatic stress disorder, severe general and social anxiety disorders and chronic severe depression. I also have a brain injury. The trauma started at 7 and went until I was 33. I have this to remind me that my heart is still beating and my stars light my way. I’m never without love, even alone.” — Kimberlea Halliwell


(Photo: Kimberlea Halliwell)

15. “My husband got this tattoo for me to show his support for my mental illness. I have bipolar 2, generalized and social anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder.” — Jennifer Rushton


(Photo: Jennifer Rushton)

16. “A reminder to love yourself as much as you love others.” — Tiffany Davidson


(Photo: Tiffany Davidson)

17. “I’ve suffered from anxiety and depression. This tattoo represents the song ‘Three Little Birds’ by Bob Marley. It helps put life into perspective.” — Sarah Gilbert


(Photo: Sarah Gilbert)

Related: To the Person Who Thinks My Fibromyalgia Isn’t Real

18. “This hummingbird was tattooed shortly after three months of hospitalization for post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. It reminds me that it’s OK to fly. (And this is my PTSD service dog I received shortly after!)” — Kerri Symes


(Photo: Kerri Symes)

19. “My husband’s bipolar tattoo.” — Alicia Branley


(Photo: Alicia Branley)

20. “A line from the ‘Firefly’ theme song, reminding me that ‘they’ (bipolar, anxiety, etc.) cannot keep me forever and one day I will be free to fly.” — Kal Gibbs Winters


(Photo: Kal Gibbs Winters)

21. “My sister and I got matching tattoos last year – a combination of a semicolon and a butterfly with our fingerprints as the wings, representing both of our struggles with depression as well as many people we both know who have various mental health problems.” — Rachel Dillon


(Photo: Rachel Dillon)

22. “It says strength from one direction; when you look at it upside down it says serenity.” — Becky Brainard


(Photo: Becky Brainard)

23. “This one is a quote by Barbara J Winter: ‘When you come to the edge of all the light you know, and are about to step off into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing one of two things will happen: There will be something solid to stand on or you will be taught how to fly.’ ” — Jesus Arroyo


(Photo: Jesus Arroyo)

24. “I’ve always been drawn to butterflies. And when I was going through difficult times, my mom reminder me of ‘the butterfly effect’ — one flap make a huge difference. My mantra became ‘flap flap.'” –Shelley Field


(Photo: Shelley Field)

25. “Twenty years ago I was diagnosed with major depression. In honor of that anniversary, I got my first tattoo. H.O.P.E. stands for: Hold On Pain Ends. The semicolon means my story is not over.” — Kristin Lynn


(Photo: Kristin Lynn)

26. “I had postpartum anxiety and OCD after my son, and after overcoming it I got this tattoo in honor of the semicolon project! That I chose to continue my sentence instead of end it.” — Ethan Lexie Clouse


(Photo: Ethan Lexie Clouse)

27. “Recurrent major depression and anxiety. I got this after my first hospitalization. It’s my way of owning it rather than feeling shame.” — Tasha Moreno

Related: The Powerful Reason People Are Putting Semicolons on Their Skin


(Photo: Tasha Moreno)

28. “This tattoo represents my emotions during my worst time here on Earth. I was dealing with manic depressive disorder without treatment. I had no idea how to handle it. During rehab I had to participate in group art therapy. I was told to draw the emotions I felt in my heart. Red for anger, grey for sadness, blue for sorrow, green for hope and lastly yellow for happiness. I kept my drawing and one year later, I had it tattooed on me to remind how I never want my heart broken in that many pieces again. Every glimpse sends chills down my spine and a big smile on my face knowing I’m better off and loving who I am now.” — BrookeTaylor St. Louis


(Photo: BrookeTaylor St. Louis)

29. “Tattoo for my son who has OCD, anxiety, ASD and Tourette’s. His favorite animal is an elephant because they may be huge, but they’re gentle.” — Christy Vogel


(Photo: Christy Vogel)

30. “My phoenix feather rising from the ashes.” — Siân Couch


(Photo: Siân Couch)

31. “Celtic sun, inspired by depression and seasonal affective disorder.” — Cherice Marie


(Photo: Cherice Marie)

32. “My brother had schizophrenia. He passed away 13 years ago at age 22. He taught me so much about acceptance, tolerance, patience and unconditional love.” — Krista Dietsch Furgala


(Photo: Krista Dietsch Furgala)

33. “‘Stay strong beautiful, things will get better. It may be stormy now but it can’t rain forever.'” — Beth Ann Baker


(Photo: Beth Ann Baker)

34. “I got this to remember myself that even though today may be a bad day, I still have hope.” — Hannah Helmer


(Photo: Hannah Helmers)

35. “I suffer from reoccurring and resistant depression and anxiety. I got this tattoo, an angel symbol that means ‘choose life,’ to remind me not to listen to or act on suicidal thoughts. I can’t control the negative voices in my head, but I can choose not to listen to them.” — Cheryl Joyce


(Photo: Cheryl Joyce)

36. “I had this done just after I had the lightbulb moment that inspired me to recover.” — Natice Aimee Duncan


(Photo: Natice Aimee Duncan)

*Some responses have been edited and shortened for brevity

By Sarah Schuster

More from The Mighty:

31 Secrets of People Who Live With Anxiety

When People Say ‘You Look Tired’

To the Husband With the Wife Who Has Depression