Seal Beach’s Still Life Tattoo Brings Suicide Awareness to the Tattoo Community

Tattoos and suicide awareness generally aren’t two topics that get discussed together too often, but Tim Shelton is looking to change that. On September 21 and 28, Shelton will be tattooing from a special flash sheet of designs (primarily related to suicide awareness) called Tattoos For Life and donating the profits to The Trevor Project and Mission 22. But if you’re expecting a dark and somber event for such a serious subject, you may be surprised by the mood inside of Seal Beach’s Still Life Tattoo on the next two Fridays.

“I wanted to be able to give back to different people and create something that was kind of fun, because I know it’s a pretty heavy topic for a lot of people,” Shelton says. “I want to bring some light to it, so why not put some ‘80s music on and do something fun? It’s about reminding people that the world isn’t so bad, because there’s a lot of bad stuff, but things aren’t so dire or terrible all the time.”

Of course, the fundraising event won’t be the first time the leader of Still Life Tattoo is using his artistic talents for a good cause, but it may be the most personal. Rather than the annual art shows he’s put on to benefit autism-based charities in the past, Shelton has dedicated a lot of his art and time this month (as September is Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month) to raising money for charities even outside of the two specific flash days. In his eyes, it’s the least he could do after surviving a suicide attempt as a teenager almost 25 years ago.

“The autism stuff is still personal because I have a cousin with autism and friends who have kids who have autism, but I found that this was a way to do something a little closer to home for me,” Shelton says. “It’s kind of cathartic not just for myself, but for a lot of people. Not a lot of people know I have my own personal ties to it, but I also know so many people who have lost friends [to suicide].”

These days, Shelton also happens to tattoo a lot of his fellow survivors — many of whom he’s happy to serve as a makeshift therapist for when they need it. Not only have those clients help inspire the artist to create the month-long charity event, but they’ve also contributed to how the only tattoo shop in Seal Beach looks and operates on a daily basis. After dealing with a lot of “I shouldn’t even still be alive” reflections since the mid ‘90s, the veteran tattooer realized that the best thing he can provide is sometimes just a positive environment for his clients, employees, and friends to spend time in. That’s why he does his best to keep as much negativity as possible out of Still Life and wants to remind everyone that they’re never the only one having those dark thoughts.

“Your environment is a huge thing for you to have, and your thoughts are influenced by your surroundings,” Shelton says. “Being in a negative area just wears you down and takes you along for that ride. You can help people just by making them conscious of what’s surrounding them and not just what’s in their heads, and that’s why I want to have fun with something like this. It’s a place for people to be comfortable and open about it if they want to share, and sometimes it’s good to talk about it.”

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