A tattoo artist from Dublin has been offering his services for free to victims of self harm seeking to cover the scars which remind them of their past.
Ryan Kelly, 25, was inspired to start Scars Behind Beauty when his friend who had self harmed in the past was held back by his scars, refusing job opportunities that required him to wear short sleeves.
The Irish artist finished school at 17 and tattooed for five years before his worsening anxiety disorder caused him to stop for two years.
Mental health was already very close to Ryan’s heart, but when his mentor since 17 took his own life and left his tattoo studio to him, Ryan knew he wanted to highlight those issues through his tattoos.
Speaking to UNILAD, Ryan said:
I knew I wanted to highlight mental health through my tattoos, but wasn’t sure how!
I then thought of how the Scars cover ups had helped my friend so decided to start the project Scars Behind Beauty, where I cover up the scars left behind from self harm, one person per week, completely free of charge!
The reaction has been amazing! I’ve been on Irish television, numerous radio shows and featured in a few Irish newspapers highlighting my project and mental health!
My waiting list for the tattoos is now over 300 people and the reactions from the people I’ve tattooed have been truly humbling! With people even travelling from the UK to get tattooed!
The second instalment of my ScarsBehindBeauty project! Thank you Olivia, brave and inspirational! RTE were in today to make a short piece on this project! Thank you to them. Once a week I will be covering up somebody's self harm scars for free! Anybody interested in taking part can mail me @ [email protected] and thank you to everyone who has mailed me so far, I promise to get to you all eventually! #scarsbehindbeauty #coverup #tattoo #mentalhealthawarness #ink #inked #eternalink
Ryan told UNILAD:
The response feels good it definitely motivates me to keep pushing it!
I do one a week at the moment. Long term plan is to initially get all the artists I work with to do a coverup charity day once a year, then eventually expand it to one day a year getting every artist in Dublin to do a cover up and make it an annual charity day!
Big shout out to my amazing client Courtney, she was the courageous lady to get my #ScarsBehindBeauty project underway! Once a week I will be covering up somebody's self harm scars for free! Anybody interested in taking part can mail me @ [email protected] and thank you to everyone who has mailed me so far, I promise to get to you all eventually! #scarsbehindbeauty #coverup #tattoo #mentalhealthawarness #ink #inked #eternalink
Ryan said he was ‘foolish’ to think he could help everyone when he started this project, but aims to get back to everyone who comes to him for support when he can.
On his Instagram, the artist wrote:
Every time these stories get shared more and more people come forward to share their own stories with me. Each and everyone of you are playing your part in breaking down the stigma about mental health.
Sorry I don’t get back to you all but even sharing your story with me is truly humbling and brave.
I hope even sharing your story has brought you some relief and hopefully we all eventually collaborate down the line.
#ScarsBehindBeauty Thank you @theirishindependent for documenting today's cover up and a massive thank you to Aoife for sharing her story while getting tattooed! Scars Behind Beauty is a project I run to cover scars left behind from self harming with tattoos, free of charge. Anyone interested in the project can contact me at [email protected] #tattoo #rose #neotraditional #dagger #scars #mentalhealth
The waiting list for Ryan’s inspiring tattoos stands at about 300, and people travel from the UK to Dublin especially to be seen by him.
If you need any help or support, or have suffered suicidal thoughts, you can call the Samaritans on 116 123.