The Yellow Tulip Project

Plant tulips. Smash the stigma. Spread hope.

Photo of Julia Hansen
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Written by

Eligibility: Are you employed by T-Mobile or related to an employee of T-Mobile?

  • No

Eligibility: Date of Birth

November 11, 1999

Where are you located:

Based out of Portland, ME 04106. We are currently in over 40 schools across Maine and northern New England, but we are hoping to expand to become nationwide and even global!

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)

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

Mental illness is a silent epidemic that impacts 1 in 5 people worldwide. It is the second leading cause of death of teenagers in Maine and is very high nationwide. Mental illness is incredibly stigmatized which further limits people from accessing the help they need. In order for young people to feel less alone and be able to access help, we need to start talking about mental illness.

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

The Yellow Tulip Project’s mission is for young people, in particular, to know that there is help out hope out there and that suicide should never be an option. We don’t want anyone to suffer alone. We’re stigma smashers! We’re normalizing the conversation around mental illness and helping people feel less isolated. We deeply believe in the power of community and know that when we come together to plant hope garden in the fall or welcome the tulips in May, we are bringing people together to talk-smash-plant-build and support each other. Our message is simple, clear and hopeful (which is a major reason we think it is taking off): Plant Yellow Tulip Hope Gardens in the fall -- come together as a community around National Suicide Prevention Week (September) or World Mental Health Awareness Day (October 10th) and get your hands dirty! In the Spring, specifically May (Mental Health Awareness Month), welcome the tulips with a celebration of hope. 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 of the “ripple effect” and have seen how a simple hopeful idea can take off and spread. For example, 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. 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 are more than willing to help out or collaborate.

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 (National Alliance on Mental Illness, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, etc) While they do great work and have amazing training programs and resources, YTP is driven by young people with a simple, clear, and HOPEFUL message. We’re not fans of boring powerpoint presentations or talk with no action. We are mobilizers. 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 the two short years that we have been around, we jumped from a sweet & approachable Facebook page with a simple, hopeful message to a passionate and engaged non-profit that is active in over 40 schools and other New England communities. We have an active YTP Ambassador network. We’re working closely with our friends at Seeds of Peace Maine who help us bring our message to “Seeds” schools. Our friends at the AFSP work with us to ensure that all of our ambassadors receive suicide prevention training. We’ve presented to the Maine Principals Association, installed helpline magnets in schools across the state, and partnered with veterans groups and refugee groups. We’ve presented at two different TED events in Portland and will be presenting a PECHA KUCHA talk this month. We’ve created a powerful traveling photo exhibit: I Am More: Facing Stigma that opened earlier this month in Portland.

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

Even though we are pretty small now, we like to think big and have a dream that we can have a Yellow Tulip Project Summit in Holland next April when the tulips are in full bloom. We just want to spread our message of hope and community far and wide. More immediately, we want to expand our YTP Ambassador network to schools across the US. Similar to the way that Active Minds focuses on college and universities, our immediate target is younger students: both middle school and high school students. We hope to spread 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).

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 pretty 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 training kits, our ambassador training manual. 2) Funding––We’ve had people do FB birthday fundraisers, donate to YTP in lieu of flowers, etc. Additionally, all of our events we have a donation bucket and often receive funds that way. All of 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, etc.

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
  • Donations between $1k-$5k

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 in Maine, 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.

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 1 [optional] Which of the following categories do you identify with?

  • White (for example: German, Irish, English, Italian, Polish, French) (6)

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 2 [optional] Do you identify as part of any of the following underrepresented communities?

  • Disability community

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Recommended by others
  • Email

Referral: If you discovered the Challenge thanks to an organization or person other than Ashoka or T-Mobile, who was it?

Reggie Miller - Seeds of Peace

Find this idea inspiring? Add your own!


Join the conversation:

Photo of Nooruddin Ahmad

I look forward to working with you to spread awareness about mental illness affecting young people.

Photo of Julia Hansen

Thank you for your support! There is so much work to be done but amazing people driven to do so!