28 Tattoos Inspired by Depression
We asked you to send in a photo of your depression-inspired tattoo and tell the story behind it. Click through to see 28 inspiring tattoos.
Thanks to everyone who submitted a photo of their tattoo and the inspiration behind it. Getting inked can be a powerful reminder that you’re stronger than your depression, even on your darkest days.
Click through the slideshow to get inspired by others who have gone through hell and kept on going.
My tattoo on my right wrist says, "Expecto Patronum," which is a spell in the Harry Potter series. The charm itself is a light spell that protects against the darkness and the "dementors," which are a symbol of the author’s struggle with depression herself.
For me, I look down and think of the good thoughts, the great times that make me who I am. I attempt to fight against the dark moments that I struggle with on a daily basis.
Kill Hannah Encourages Life
In 2011, the band Kill Hannah held a charity tattoo drive to benefit the organization To Write Love on Her Arms. I went through a very dark, completely numb period where close friends worried I'd literally die from my broken heart. Music (specifically, the bands Kill Hannah and Jack's Mannequin/Something Corporate) was my salvation.
I proudly wrote LOVE on my arm to show others that they don't have to face anything alone. There is always someone to help, to care, to talk to, even if it is a stranger. You just need the courage to ask.
Spreading the Love and Awareness
I decided to get this tattoo on my wrist after I first heard about “free love day” in April 2011. That’s when I learned of the group To Write Love on Her Arms, a non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide.
TWLOHA exists to encourage, inform, inspire, and invest in treatment and recovery. I decided to get the tattoo in a place visible to all, so that someone might ask me: “Hey, what does that mean?” and I might spread awareness.
"Live And Let Live" is the first tattoo I got as a reminder to take each day as it comes—not to worry about tomorrow or what happened in the past. While dealing with depression, my mind was in complete overdrive, constantly thinking and rethinking situations that weren't even remotely important in the long run.
This is on the back of my neck, and although I can't see it, I KNOW it’s there. It serves as a constant reminder for me to this day to do exactly as it says.
Hope Through Faith
I have suffered from chronic depression for more of my life than not. These tattoos remind me that the love and hope of Jesus Christ will carry me through.
You Are Buoyant
I had this put on the outside of my hand. It reminds me that bipolar is an anchor in my life, but it will not hold me down. I refuse to sink!
There’s Light in Darkness
My tattoo is a black sun with a cross and threads of light breaking through. The black sun symbolizes the fact that depression or bipolar can bring you through the darkest times anyone has ever experienced.
The threads of light breaking through symbolize that even though we are in a seemingly never-ending darkness, there will always be at least one thread of light to lead us back to a happier place. The cross is personal to me: it symbolizes my religion.
This was the last thing my mother said to me before she passed suddenly. It's an English saying that means keep smiling. I got it to remind me to do just that every day.
I fell into a very deep depression after losing her because I was on vacation when she fell, and I was unable to help her. It helps a lot.
Live Like the Lotus
I got the tattoo to represent a horrific time in my life where I was severely clinically depressed. With medication and therapy, I, like the lotus, was able to grow even in the most horrid conditions.
I celebrated my healing in conjunction with my 40th birthday with this tattoo. Whenever I look at my lotus flower, it reminds me just how far I’ve come and that I’m a worthy person who has tackled and beat despair.
I live with depression daily, but my flower encourages me to never give up and live one day at the time.
This tat was something I had to do after a psychotic break. My husband sketched the tat for the artist. The dragonfly represents how far I’ve come, and living in the moment. The stars include our children’s initials and birthdates. The big star is my husband’s and my wedding date with our initials. The tat in its entirety is also a symbol that bipolar is permanently a part of me.
You’re Still Here
I wanted something to remind me that even when I burn my life down, I am still here.
You’re Beautiful, Worthy, and Loved
The basic story behind my tattoo is "to write love on her arms." It’s my inspiration to keep from cutting every time I look down at my wrist. I got it after a breakup as a reminder that I am loved no matter what, and I don’t need anyone else to affirm that I’m beautiful and worthy. All I need is me. I am worth loving regardless of anything.
Never Look Back
I got this tattoo for the cause To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA...I’m on their street team...yeah!). I have clinical depression, and I used to cut myself (not just on my arms, but especially on my left arm). I got this tattoo on my left wrist as a reminder of what I have been through and that I don't want to go back there again.
You Can Overcome
This is my inspiring tattoo. Lotus flower tattoos are popular for people who have gone through a hard time and have risen above it. I grew up, just as a lotus, overcoming some very dark and seemingly un-nurturing circumstances to blossom into what I am today.
Today, I’m no longer a victim of abuse, neglect, cancer, drugs, etc. I have overcome and now use those lessons to empower others to do the same. On bad days, my tattoo becomes a beautiful reminder that I’ve overcome greater things than this.
Inspiration from the Ancients
This is my "Depression Tattoo." It’s a dream catcher to protect me from hurting myself and others. It has a wolf in the middle of it to represent the “Two Wolves” Native American tale, and the three different colored beads represent the birth stones of three people in my life who helped me when I was going through my worst depression. I got the tattoo to help me on bad days and to look at as reminder of strength, love, freedom, determination, and resilience.
This is my Thirty Seconds to Mars tattoo. It may just be another band tattoo, but to me, it's more than that. I cut myself for over seven years due to my depression and this band helped me get through it all. I had it tattooed on my wrist because it covers a few of many scars, and having it there keeps me from EVER wanting to cut my wrist again—I would never want to ruin my beautiful tattoo.
Free from the Darkness
I'm 19 years old, and three years depression-free. My tattoo is Frank from Donnie Darko holding a pocket watch. Frank is a representation of the monster that had me trapped for years: depression. Inside the watch is the date I reached out for help for self-injury, depression, and borderline personality disorder: 4/17/2010. The quote says, "Sometimes the search is all we have to keep us going."
This tattoo helps me deny the temptations to self-injure and strive to be better, free from the darkness. The search for who I am is the reason I keep on keeping on.
Self-Reliant and Marching On
"I stand for many yet walk alone." This is self-explanatory really. I have bipolar and I'm a very loving person who will always be there and stand up for others. Unfortunately, when I'm at my lowest, I seem to be on my own. I walk to my own unique beat of the drum.
All You Need Is Strength
My son is 15 and was diagnosed a year ago with severe anxiety and depression. We’ve also had a tragedy and changes in our lives in the last year. This tattoo was to help him realize that all you need is strength to get through the day. Strength is very appropriate for what we’re dealing with.
I got this tattoo when I was 26. I am almost 34 now. It represents me as a person and all that I have been through, and will go through. It’s a sun, rising up from the horizon. Notice it’s not fully above the horizon, but getting close. That’s how life has been for me, especially after being diagnosed bipolar in 2006. Never quite fully above, but also not fully beneath the horizon. Somewhere in the middle, ready to be tipped in either direction, depending on how life goes.
New Life, New Opportunities
I am bi-polar axis 2. I’ve been hospitalized several times. After my second stay in the hospital with a new game plan of ECT, I had my mom drive me to get this tattoo. I have since changed my life completely and have had opportunities I never thought I would. This picture was taken last summer in IBIZA. It reminds me to fight for life.
Life Is Worth Fighting For
Emilie Autumn writes songs that I can relate to and pushes me to fight hard to live for myself. A couple years ago, I got the chance to meet her. I told her of my struggles and she told me that she had similar experiences. She autographed my arm that is covered in scars and made me promise to never hurt myself again. I haven't self-injured since. I am constantly reminded by the tattoo that life is worth fighting for.
This Too Shall Pass
This has been my motto since I was seven. I always repeated this to myself when things were not going well. I got this tattoo so I would see it and remember that things will pass and get better.
God was the inspiration behind this tattoo. It reminds me that he is always there with me in everything I do and everything I go through, protecting me and the people I care about through my mania and depression phases.
You’re in Control
I got this tattoo a little over two years ago. I've been diagnosed bi-polar type 1. My tattoo stands for being depressed and manic. I got it as a symbol that I am in control of my illness, and am not afraid to show people that it makes me who I am today. It's a great conversation starter and has helped me begin to educate the ones around me about bi-polar.
Man’s Best Friend
I have PTSD, bipolar disorder, and borderline personality disorder. I had a wonderful, black, fat, happy, Service Animal named Eddie for 11 years. He was part Border Collie and part Labrador Retriever.
Together, we created a new life for me, after my old, "normal" life was over. He took me to the grocery store and we rode horseback. With him, I could leave the house and participate in life again. We even educated the public about PSDs (Psychiatric Service Dogs). When he was passing, I promised him we would never be apart again, and got a tattoo of his paw print. He is always with me now...so I am not afraid anywhere I go.
This is on my left foot. I got it during my senior year of college during my first—and so far only unmedicated—depression. I got this because I needed a physical reminder of strength and that I need to give myself and those around me grace for the day.
I chose a butterfly because I feel much like when a caterpillar is going into a cocoon and feels as though it is dying. This symbolized my depression and that if I could hold out and get through it, I could become something beautiful on the other side.
As I struggled through urges of self-harm and suicide and felt utterly hopeless, I knew I needed something to remind me that there was hope even when I couldn't see it or feel it.
This tattoo is a constant reminder of the sometimes seemingly impossible-to-grasp hope. I look at my wrist and know I have to keep fighting because there will be better times, even if they don't always last.