After tattoo artist Whitney Develle, 22, in Australia offered free tattoos to those with self-harm scars, her post not only went viral, but so many people reached out that she had to limit the number of freebies. I think this says a lot in terms of mental health—how many people could use our help.
“The hardest part was that statistically probably 98 percent of [those who had written in] were people had self-harmed,” Develle said to 9news.com.au. “Majority of them were too scared to speak with a tattooist out of fear of being judged.”
And Develle got the idea from a friend who had self-inflicted scars as a result of an eating disorder.
“She told me how much pain it brought her when people would question her about them or make comments,” Develle said to 9news.com.au. “No one should ever have to feel like a public museum for people to ridicule.”
After Develle covered her friend’s scars with a tattoo, “people were asking her about her tattoo,” Develle said. “The scars became irrelevant—a thing of the past… The look on her face—money can’t buy that.”
In light of her post’s popularity, Develle, from Garage Ink in Brisbane, Australia, followed up on Facebook and Instagram with an amended post.
In it, she limited the free tattoos to 50 for the rest of this year, but still encouraged people to email her about discounted tattoos and promised to respond to everyone. “…I want you to be able to look down at the scars that bring you pain, embarrassment, shame, and be able to put those feelings behind you and instead feel proud of the body part that now contains art and offers a new beginning,” Develle said in her post.
She did not extend free or discounted tattoos to those who are still self-harming, but did provide a resource for them to contact—Beyond Blue, an organization specializing in assisting those with anxiety and depression.
Develle, who has over 14,000 followers on Instagram, seemed touched that her offer reached people around the world.
Via Facebook, she also said:
“I am so glad that Mental Illness is being brought in to the light and that people are reaching out for help. I have already been contacted by other tattooists in other states willing to offer similar services. The enquiries I have received have been emotionally overwhelming though being able to personally get in touch with you all has brought so much warmth to my heart. This is going to be an incredible, life changing year. Note: I have been responding to as many emails as I possibly can each and every day, please be patient at this time and know that you will be contacted soon. All my love and warmest regards.”
We can see why people want Develle to be their tattoo artist—not just for her free or discounted offer, but also for the quality of her work.
“Society looks [down at people with self-harm scars] and immediately thinks they are unstable or unfit to be amongst the rest of us,” Develle said to 9news.com.au. “I want to change that stigma… These are grandparents, mothers and fathers, young adults who have moved beyond their days of self-inflicted harm. I want them to know that they no longer have to feel ashamed and that they no longer have to conceal their scars. They can receive some closure and find confidence again.”
Hopefully, other tattoo artists around the world will be inspired to do the same thing as Develle.