“Mental health knows no age, gender, sexuality … some people feel it and don’t even know they are feeling it because it isn’t talked about. It is important to talk about it because it can build and build and build until there is a break. Opening up a conversation from the beginning helps it not build.” Kennady Savage, Mt. Blue High School’s Yellow Tulip Project ambassador.
FARMINGTON — It is hard to imagine bright yellow tulips in bloom this time of year but Mt. Blue High School students are working to ensure the spring flowers blossom in hopes of breaking the barriers of mental illness.
The Yellow Tulip Project is an international organization that works to break the stigma and build awareness about mental illness through Hope Gardens, said junior Kennady Savage of Wilton. Savage is the school’s Yellow Tulip Project ambassador and has had her own battle with mental illness.
“We use yellow tulips because they are a symbol of hope and they break through the tough ground. They are a metaphor for depression,” she said.
Savage became involved a year ago when she attended the Maine Youth Action Networks Conference in Bangor.
“A representative of the Yellow Tulip Project was there. She talked about her struggle with mental illness. At the time I was struggling with my mental illness, so I really attached to the message. I thought, ‘This is something my school could really use.’,” she said.
Raising awareness is important, she said because mental illness is not something that is talked about.
“Just from my own experience, I can tell you I felt isolated. I am an AP Honors student, I get good grades in higher-level classes, I am active in after school activities. I felt like no one else that I associated with would feel the same way I do. When you feel alone it doesn’t help with getting any better.
“It is important that we have a dialogue and that we talk about mental illness the way we talk about other illness like STDs in health class. Sex education is very important but so is the education that mental health is not an isolated case of only a few. In all reality, mental health is something that is affecting teenagers nowadays on a larger scale than most people think.”
After many months of planning, advertising, securing a faculty advisor and getting approval to set up the chapter, the team finally began meeting in April of this year, Savage said. The first order of business was planning fundraisers to help with the cost of purchasing tulip bulbs.
In October, the group planted the first Hope Garden at Franklin Memorial Hospital. There are future plans to plant gardens at the high school, Mt. Blue Middle School and at parks in Wilton.
There are about 15 students involved in the project, but more members are always welcome and needed.
“Mental health knows no age, gender, sexuality … some people feel it and don’t even know they are feeling it because it isn’t talked about,” Savage said. “It is important to talk about it because it can build and build and build until there is a break. Opening up a conversation from the beginning helps it not build.”
The group’s next fundraiser will be a Community Trivia Night, held on Friday, Nov. 22 at Mt. Blue Campus beginning at 5 p.m. “It’s going to be fun, light-hearted questions. We have categories like things your grandparents or grandkids wouldn’t understand,” she said.
Snacks and participation in the event are by donation.
“It’s more of an opportunity for us to get our name out there,” Savage said.
For more information about The Yellow Tulip Project, visit theyellowtulipproject.org. For more information about the Mt. Blue chapter or upcoming fundraisers, email Savage at email@example.com.