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Mental Health Awareness Week: The motivational temporary tattoos that are helping people who self-harm

Francesca Timbers first started the project after her ill health left her feeling suicidal

Olivia Blair
Monday 08 May 2017 12:42 BST

An artist has designed temporary tattoos to help people struggling with their mental health and to stop them self-harming.

Francesca Timbers, a British-Italian psychology graduate who lives in London, first started designing and producing ‘Motivational Tattoos’ in 2015 from her parent’s living room.

The majority of the tattoos are in the design of plasters and are emblazoned with motivational messages such as “It will pass”, “Breathe”, “Love Yourself” and “I am enough”. On social media, people who have bought the tattoos have taken pictures of themselves with them on their wrists, legs and other parts of their bodies.

A 2011 study found that temporary tattoos can be a method of discussing and altering self-harm behaviours and countering negative body image. Timbers says she has used studies like this to influence her work and designs.

“The idea with the tattoos is that having something visually on your skin offers an alternative way of expressing your feelings and conflicts externally, rather than resorting to self-harming behaviours,” she told The Independent.

Timbers was spurred to start the project after a diagnosis with optic neuritis left her suicidal in 2011.

“Now, I consider maybe the experience was worthwhile because it has led me to this project and turned into something positive that I can give to others,” she writes on her product website. “This is a symbol, a way to connect people, and a means of encouraging self-care. Our goal is to inspire a movement and create a network of support and recognition around this project. Whenever your friends and family see you wearing these, they will know that you need extra care and support that day.”

Timbers has been selling the tattoos on Etsy since 2015 and has so far sold over 20,000 packs to more than 60 different countries.

The temporary tattoos last for around five days and are easily removable. As well as the tattoos, Timbers has also began selling tactile bandage pins to attach to clothing after reading studies which found tactile stimulation can reduce stress and anxiety.

You can call Samaritans free, any time from any phone, on 116 123 (this number will not appear on your phone bill), email or go to to find details of your nearest branch

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