One in five Americans suffers from some sort of mental health challenge. Even if you do not personally suffer, chances are your life has been touched by someone who has had difficulties. Anxiety disorders, obsessive thoughts, depression, and many other illnesses are common and unfortunately many carry a stigma in today’s society. Many people are simply over the stigma. After all, mental illness does not define a person. Some have turned to tattoos as a form of self-expression and a way to raise awareness about mental illness and help remove the stigma around it. By creating beautiful works of art, tattoo artists help others to see themselves in a design. For many, dealing with a mental illness can be lonely and alienating. But, if you meet someone and they’ve got a mental health tattoo or just a thoughtful tattoo about their condition, it can be both revelatory and affirming. No one should suffer alone. Tattoos are a great way to bridge the gap between an invisible disorder and the real world. Here’s a look at some seriously amazing mental health tattoos.
Mr. Serotonin Man
Serotonin is the chemical that makes us feel happy and well. Many people suffering from depression and other forms of mental illness have a shortage of the chemical. It’s just a chemical imbalance. This funny tattoo reads, “Mr. Serotonin man, lend me a gram.”
A popular mental health tattoo design is the chemical symbol for serotonin. The person with this beautiful rendering shared, “It’s said that people who suffer from anxiety have low serotonin levels, so here’s my extra boost of serotonin to help with the bad days.”
Dopamine and Serotonin
In addition to serotonin, dopamine is another neurotransmitter that plays a significant role in how our brains make us feel. Dopamine is the “feel-good” neurotransmitter and it’s necessary to feel happy in the good moments.
Harry Potter Meets Mental Health
In this creative design, we see a humpback whale with “Expecto Patronium” written above in the iconic Harry Potter font. The woman with this tattoo shared her story:
“I’ve always connected with J.K. Rowling’s Patronus imagery- In the Harry Potter books, the Patronus Charm drives away dementors- terrifying creatures that suck out your soul. A Patronus takes the shape of a different animal for each witch or wizard. The dementor is J.K. Rowling’s personification of depression, and effectively conjuring a Patronus requires empathy, determination, hard work, and positive thinking. My dementor is my struggle with disordered eating, adhd, and depression.”
Our Beautiful Brains
In this incredible tattoo, the artist has included so many visual representations for how mental illness can feel. The brain is disconnected from the body, there’s a cloud around the eyes and face, there are also tears falling, and eyes staring from the dark locks of hair. It’s stunning.
The beautifully simple tattoo combines the lotus flower and the NEDA recovery symbol in one design. The National Eating Disorder Association’s symbol can be seen as the stem and leaf of the flower. This is so peaceful.
Mental Health Looms Large
In this haunting design, we see a dark figure with a mask-like face hovering over a smaller person without a face. For many who suffer from depression or anxiety, the image perfectly represents how overwhelming it can feel.
This tattoo shows a face split in two by a floral pattern. Feeling disconnected or not whole is common. We love the way this tattoo beautifully represents the feeling.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders or DSM-5 is a manual of mental disorders and this person used its classification for OCD as inspiration. He writes, “I’ve been thinking about it for a while. It’s there to remind me that this thing is a part of me whether I want it or not, but also to remind me of the courage and strength it has taken to recover from it. It’s also a reminder of the dedicated work of all the professionals who helped me, and my desire to pay it forward in the years to come.”
The semicolon is more than punctuation; it’s a symbol that’s used as a message of affirmation and solidarity against suicide, depression, addiction, and other mental health issues. The semicolon is an extremely popular mental health tattoo and this person has sandwiched it in the word “continue.” What a hopeful message.
There are a lot of creative semicolon tattoos, and this understated semicolon and cat combination is a winner! The tattoo was shared with the message, “Always try to be supportive of those with problems you cannot see.”
This semicolon tattoo incorporates the symbol into the words, “fight always.” Mental health is a struggle and you have to be tough to fight it. This bold tattoo is a reminder to never give up.
Be Kind to Yourself
This tattoo is straightforward. It reads, “Be kind to your mind.” Truer words have never been tattooed. It’s always important to be patient with yourself and to give yourself a break when you mess up.
“Take care” are two words we should heed more often. These boldly lettered ankle tattoos have found the perfect spot.
This very minimalist tattoo of the word, “survive” is striking. The person who shared the image of the tattoo described the motivation behind it. They got the tattoo “to remember that if feeling alive is not quite possible for me…to survive is enough for now…but tattooing my own skin definitely made me feel it again…the liveliness!”
Fighting a Battle in Your Head
This fabulous tattoo depicts the inner struggles of mental illness. When you’re constantly battling your brain and its hardwired bad habits, it’s the definition of an uphill battle. It can really feel this epic for some people!
Cut the Rope
A tattoo of a noose might seem a bit dark, but there’s hope. You can “always cut the rope” or “break the chain” from your struggles, according to the person with this tattoo. Inspiration can come from morbid places!
This tattoo belongs to a man named Rich who wanted to poke a little fun at himself. The tattoo consists of a block of ice with medication frozen inside and the message, “Mentally ill, totally chill.” There’s nothing wrong with keeping your cool.
Let Me Overthink This
Wow! This unconventional, yet traditional-in-style tattoo reminds us not to get too in the weeds. “Don’t overthink,” this tattoo gently reminds us. We’ll take that advice. Or try to. Or… wait, we’re already back to overthinking… Gah!
Take a Breath
“As someone with severe anxiety, sometimes I need a reminder to just breathe. I’m glad that I got this tattoo in a spot that I can always see it whenever I need that simple reminder,” writes the woman with this meditative tat.
Take Your Meds
Mental health awareness means letting others know it’s okay that they should take their medication. Prescriptions can be lifesavers for many who suffer. We appreciate the sentiment behind this lovely tattoo.
A Professional Opinion
A mental health nurse named Erin chose this design for her tattoo. One side resembles the normal structure of the human brain while the other is blossoming and budding with plantlife. A bee rests below the brain. Does the bee represent Erin?
Light as a Feather
An anchor can symbolize stability, but this person has reimagined it as a reminder to stay afloat. The anchor contains elements of the night sky and it is surrounded by butterflies. Beneath the anchor the message, “I refuse ; to sink” is tattooed. The person who shared this tattoo wrote, “Definitely worth the pain.”
“I wanted my next tattoo (18th!) to represent my dedication and journey to better my life by actively taking care of my mental health and the battle it is daily,” the person with this beautiful tattoo shared. Bravo.
This simple tattoo is like a line drawing. It depicts a face with the word “doubt” written across it. Self-doubt or a lack of confidence can be crippling for some people. This fabulous tattoo lets others know that they are not alone, no matter how much they might feel that way.
Mental health isn’t the easiest thing to talk about, but mental health tattoos are changing that! By giving people something to talk about an “in” a jumping-off point for discussion, tattoos can truly be transformative works of art. Further, dealing with a mental illness is hard. Whether you’ve experienced it or not, it’s always nice to know that you’ve got your own back.
Andrew is a Chicago-based writer who enjoys finding the best of the internet, obsessively making lists, and cooking for friends. After studying Film and Art History, he developed a deep love for both topics. Celebrity news, pop culture, and stories that bring people together are his passions.
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