Feature Articles

The Scars Project: Turning Pain into Beauty

Battle scars turned into beautiful beginnings.

People suffering from mental health problems often feel like they don’t deserve the life they are given. They try to inflict cuts and bruises on themselves because they think they deserve those.

Australian tattoo artist Whitney Develle wants to change the way these people feel about themselves by giving free tattoos to cover up self-harm scars and make them feel good about themselves, flaws and all.

WHITNEY DEVELLE-THE SCARS PROJECT
Ink on Skin. Whitney Develle, a third year tattooist based in Melbourne, Australia uses her love for the craft in raising mental health awareness by giving free tattoos to survivors of self-harm. (Photo by Whitney Develle’s Facebook page)

Sprout of an idea

The idea of giving free tattoos came to Develle last year when she attended a party and met a girl battling an eating disorder and depression. On the arms of the girl, Develle found two words written in scars caused by self-harm which says, “Don’t eat.” Develle felt saddened by the fact that this girl thinks that she is not worthy to eat or even to live so she suggested covering up the cuts with a tattoo. The girl agreed and Develle then painted over the scars with a bouquet of flowers.

Develle shared that she was overwhelmed by the reaction of the girl after the session, and felt like she wanted to do more of this. She shared, “The way the tattoo made her feel, it was like she was wearing armor on top of her scars. Seeing the expression on her face and how happy it made her, I thought what a great idea to be able to do that for more people.”

After that life-changing moment, she decided to cover more cuts and bruises from painful past experiences. She wanted to raise mental health awareness by using the thing she’s most capable of: turning battle scars into beautiful pieces of art.

On March 2016, The Scars Project started; she posted an announcement on all of her social media accounts about giving a free tattoo once a week to survivors of self-harm for a year. She immediately received thousands of messages from people who want their scars to be covered with a tattoo designed by Develle.

MITCH-THE SCARS PROJECT
Of art and pain. This tattoo was one of the latest designs that Develle inked on the skin of a boy named Mitch, who found out he was gay and resorted into inflicting cuts to himself for the world made him believe that something is wrong with him. Fortunately, he has friends who supported him throughout his journey and he finally accepted who he really is. (Photo from Whitney Develle’s Facebook page)

Root of change

A lot of people had been trying to reach out to her, requesting for their scars to be covered by her tattoo designs. After getting thousands of emails on the first day after the announcement, she decided to prolong the project in order to accommodate all the people who have sent their messages.

Originally, The Scars Project was planned to run for only a year but since she wanted to attend to all the requests, she promised to give huge discounts for the other clients who wouldn’t be able to make it to the list for the year of 2016.

Moreover, on a Facebook post, another client shared her gratitude to Develle’s kindness and passion on raising mental health awareness stating that, “I came to terms with my scarred body many years ago, and most of the time forget they are there, but it made me rather uncomfortable when friends, family and even strangers would comment on them and ask ‘why did you do that?’ I sought out Whitney and discussed covering my left forearm which was the worst of my limbs, not because I was ashamed or embarrassed, but because I was ready to move on from that chapter of my life.”

The Scars Project have been changing the lives of people who suffer from mental illnesses and abuse. Develle’s wish to create a change in the world definitely came true and she encourages everyone to do the same by using their talent into something that would make the world a better place.

Growth from the tough land

Whitney Develle believes that the world is too cruel to judge a person by their physical appearance, and that is why she created The Scars Project. Now that more people know about her project, she feels really happy for her tattoos to be a part of the journey towards a better tomorrow for people dealing with mental health problems. She says that this project is now part of her heart and her soul.

“Every person we meet in life is facing their own struggles. We don’t know what someone has been through or how hard they’ve had to fight, to judge a person on appearance alone is just ridiculous. I hope to change that by turning their scars into something beautiful, something worth embracing — a sort of badge that screams ‘I am here and I am more than my scars,” shares Develle when asked about how she wanted to inspire more people by doing this project.

DEVELLE-THE SCARS PROJECT
In the act. Develle happily inks her design on one of her clients. Her genuine care and passion for her work make the client at ease as she turns battle scars into beautiful tattoo pieces. (Photo from bbc.co.uk)

To know more about Develle’s advocacy, you can visit The Scars Project in her Facebook page. Always remember that your scars are the representation of how strong you are and the chance for a new beginning is always waiting for you.

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