INKED FOR A CAUSE
Tattoos raise $25,000 for teen suicide prevention program
FREDERICKSBURG, VA. | Katherine Leaver told her friends she did not feel right — that she no longer wanted to exist.
“I was suicidal, and I didn’t really realize it,” she said.
She met with a counselor at the urging of friends. The therapist, recognizing the severity of Ms. Leaver’s depression, referred her to a hospital for inpatient treatment.
It may have saved her life.
Two years later, Ms. Leaver, 20, shared her story during the 11th annual Tattoos for Community event at Jack Brown’s Tattoo Revival in Fredericksburg. The tattoo parlor donated all of its proceeds to Mental Health America of Fredericksburg’s Teen Suicide Prevention program, which teaches seventh- and ninth-graders how to identify depression in themselves and others.
Ms. Leaver came with her sister and mom, both of whom planned to get their first tattoos in the name of mental-health awareness.
“Having the resources to help recognize depression and suicide is really important, because I had people who knew that stuff and were able to say, ‘Hey, you need to go get help,’” said Ms. Leaver, 20, who lives in Stafford County. “It’s really cool that getting a tattoo can help support that.”
The parlor raked in $13,000, the most in the fundraiser’s history. Ten tattoo artists worked nonstop that day from noon until 10 p.m., and the line to get in stretched for half a block at one point. The two-day event ultimately raised $25,500.
“They’re here because they all have a story,” said Rita Girard, executive director of Mental Health America of Fredericksburg.
She talked with people whose relatives had attempted or committed suicide and met a local musician whose band, Seaside Heights, emphasizes suicide awareness.
Michele Griffin, a mental health technician at Mary Washington Hospital, planned to get a tattoo reading “Love the life you live, live the life you love” in the shape of an infinity symbol.
She wants people to know it’s OK to seek help. Those dealing with mentalhealth struggles should see a doctor, just like they would for any other medical condition, she said.
“It’s not anything to be ashamed of,” Ms. Griffin said.
Artist Dustin Mugridge drew a tattoo concealing self-inflicted scars on a customer’s arm. The customer, Kayla Hazelton of Fairfax County, says she has an addictive personality and cutting herself was “kind of my first addiction.” A regular at Jack Brown’s, all of Ms. Hazelton’s tattoos cover the faded scars on her body.
“We’ve done a lot of cover-up stuff to help people feel more comfortable with their past, feel more comfortable in their own skin,” Mr. Mugridge said.
Ms. Leaver hoped to get a tattoo of a quarter rest, a musical symbol that denotes a pause in a piece of music. Or, as she put it: “You catch your breath, [and] you keep going.”
That’s what she did two years ago, after seeing a counselor about her severe depression.
She took a pause, and then kept working toward a music degree at Sweet Briar College in Lynchburg.
Ms. Leaver, who continues to meet with a therapist and take medication for depression, is set to graduate next year.
“I kept going throughout all of it.”
A Jack Brown’s Tattoo Revival artist works on a tattoo during the shop’s 11th annual Tattoos for Community event in Fredericksburg, Virginia. The parlor donated all of its proceeds to a Mental Health America of Fredericksburg’s Teen Suicide Prevention program.