The Yellow Tulip Project

Plant tulips. Smash the stigma. Spread hope.

Photo of Alison Ingalls
18 12

Written by

Website or social media url(s) (optional): Facebook - The Yellow Tulip Project Instagram @theyellowtulipproject

Date Started

April 28, 2016

Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Scaling (expanding impact to many new places or in many new ways)

1. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project? NOTE: All applications must include a 1 minute video that answers: “I am stepping up to make change because..."

When Julia was a sophomore, her two closest friends took their own life within four months. While struggling with her own immense grief, depression, and self-harm, Julia was able to find goodness in the world and was done being silent and needed to do something positive to bring awareness to mental illness. The Yellow Tulip Project was born; not only was it the perfect way to remember and honor her friends (the tulip was one friend's favorite flower and yellow was the other's favorite color), it could serve as a platform that addressed mental illness in a hopeful way, instead of the stereotypical dark way that most other organizations took on the topic. In addition to the tribute the flower is to her friends, the yellow tulip represents happiness and hope––newness and springtime which brings light and warmth. The Yellow Tulip Project is meant to let people know that “Hope Happens”.

2. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

While 1 in 5 young people struggle with some form of mental illness, two-thirds don’t receive the help they need. While the consequences of this vary, the most common outcome is suicide, which currently stands as the 3rd leading cause of death for adolescents in the US. The main reason that so few people seek out treatment is due to the highly stigmatized nature of mental illness in our society.

3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

We are not mental health professionals and we recognize that, as much as we wish we could, we can not make mental illness go away. We can, however, change the perception and begin to normalize the conversation around mental illness. And that’s exactly what we’re doing. Our mission is simple; build a community with the common goal of smashing the stigma surrounding mental illness and helping people who are struggling to feel less alone. In order to do this and for young people to be able to access help, we need to start talking about mental illness. We deeply believe in the power of community, so we host a variety of community-wide events that offer a platform for people to be honest and open about their mental health struggles. Our two largest events being centered around the tulips––in the fall we plant the tulips & in the spring we welcome them, all while bringing people together to talk about mental health and work toward smashing the stigma. Beyond these two anchoring events, we’re mobilizing an active network of YTP Ambassadors who are bringing our message to schools. We meet monthly, share ideas, inspire each other and drive our mission forward.

4. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.

We are firm believers in the “ripple effect.” We have seen how a simple, hopeful idea can take off and spread. Last year, founder, Julia Hansen gave a Ted talk “Hope Happens” about her journey with depression, suicide loss, self-harm and finding hope. Her talk inspired Alison who stepped up and started a YTP Tulip Team at her school and is now a vital member of the Board of Directors. It is very simple to become a YTP Ambassador and get the program going within your school/community. On our website, we have our YTP Training Kit that introduces new ambassadors to the organization and gives them step-by-step guidance. We also have extremely open lines of communication and many ambassadors who love to help get new programs/teams off the ground.

5. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

There are many professional organizations that tackle mental illness and suicide prevention (NAMI, AFSP, etc). While they do great work and have amazing training programs and resources, YTP is driven by young people and unlike many other organizations, our message is simple, clear, and HOPEFUL. We’re not fans of boring or sad powerpoint presentations or talk with no action. We are making things happen—we’ve lost too many friends or classmates to suicide and are determined to do something about it.

6. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

In two years, YTP has jumped from a sweet & approachable Facebook page with a simple, hopeful message to a passionate and engaged non-profit, active in over 40 schools and communities across New England. We’ve presented to the Maine Principals Association, at two different TED events and at PECHA KUCHA Portland’s ‘A Cause for Optimism’ night. We have installed helpline magnets in schools across the state. Additionally, we’ve created a powerful traveling photo exhibit: I Am More: Facing Stigma that opened earlier this month in Portland; faces of 22 courageous individuals, with six ‘I am’ statements, each showing they are much more than their mental illness. Our message is spreading and more and more people are opening up to tell their stories of their mental health journeys. With each story the stigma of mental illness is diminished.

7. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

We want to spread our message of hope and community far and wide––to schools across the US, Canada and beyond. We would love to host regional summits and possibly a national summit (bring together YTP Ambassadors to meet in person once a year to share ideas, active sessions and presentations). We’re working closely with our friends at Seeds of Peace and will present to over 300 young people at their camp this summer. In addition, we hope to do more with the I am more: Facing Stigma gallery. In early May, the exhibit was on display at Speedwell Gallery and will now travel to different community spaces. We are also hoping to create a book and put it online to be used in health curricula in schools moving forward.

8. Future Support: What are the resources needed to make your vision a reality?

Currently, we are a small group of passionate teenagers that are moving mountains in Maine. We’re still small but super ambitious, organized and effective. Here is a list of our most immediate needs: 1) Marketing and social media expansion––we need to update our website, our ambassador training manual and our method of connecting ambassadors. 2) Funding––We’ve had people do FB birthday fundraisers, donate to YTP in lieu of flowers, donation buckets at events, etc. which has added up to just enough to allow us what we’re doing now. In order to scale YTP, we definitely need more funding to support more signs, helpline magnets, yellow tulip bulbs, YTP banners, pay for projects, and overall general expansion.

9. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?

  • Friend support
  • Family support
  • Mentors/advisors
  • Donations less than $100
  • Donations between $100-$1k

10. Ripple Effect: Please share some ideas of how you could partner with other changemakers or involve other young people as leaders in making a difference.

We are firm believers in the expression “it takes a village” and are so happy to work with anyone that likes our mission and cares about stigma reduction and mental health awareness. This past year we’re so proud to be working with Seeds of Peace, Hardy Girls Healthy Women & Boys to Men, AFSP, Mid-Coast Alliance for Youth Suicide Prevention and an active team in Bangor Maine who all like what we do and are helping spread out message of community and hope to their stakeholders. We’ve also partnered with veterans groups and refugee groups. Everyone is effected by mental illness, whether they themselves struggle or a family member or close friend does, which is why we believe it is so crucial to partner with as many different groups as possible. Although our stories are all different, we all have battles to fight and we need love & support; the Yellow Tulip Project’s mission is to provide that for anyone that is willing to jump on board.

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Recommended by others
  • Email


Join the conversation:

Photo of Ariyan Miller

Hey There Fellow Changemaker,

Congrats on moving to the next phase. I wishing you the best of luck ! & I am sending love and light to all the positive things that you do.

View all comments