Mental health tattoos have become a hot topic on TikTok, with ‘medusa tattoo’ gaining over 22.8 million views and counting. But before you ask, it has nothing to do with an uptick in interest for Greek mythology. Medusa is considered a symbol of survival among women who have suffered sexual assault, and it’s fair to say the designs are both breath-taking and powerful, as are many mental health tattoos.
Sometimes, a tattoo is just a pretty piece of art the wearer felt drawn to in the tattoo parlour – an aesthetically-pleasing design that complements their existing inks. But ask a person the meaning behind their tattoo and, more often than not, they’ll reveal an emotional story behind it.
Celebrity tattoo artist Claudio Traina at Sixty Ink Tattoo explains that even the process of getting a tattoo can be therapeutic. “Getting tattooed is similar to a therapy session – people trust us with their skin,” he tells Glamour. “Touching a person creates a connection – people get vulnerable and they open up to us.”
Tattoo artist Abigail Rawlings of Abigail Louise Tattoos explains how she does a lot of scar cover ups on arms and thighs for people who have self-harmed in the past. “My clients say they find it therapeutic and that it’s almost like closing that chapter of their life. I think it’s really powerful and I’m grateful that they trust me and are comfortable sharing that part of their journey with me.”
Traina echoes this: “We can cover traumatic memories with an amazing design that helps to distract the eyes away from it, or in some cases, highlight and pay homage to it.”
He goes on to tell us that while some people choose these tattoos to make a bold statement, wearing their heart on their sleeve (quite literally), others opt for more discreet designs. “You may have no idea there is a connection to mental health unless you asked.”