On November 7, freshmen from Gorham High School (GHS) took time out of the school day to plant yellow tulips around Village Elementary School as part of the Yellow Tulip Project, a program dedicated to suicide awareness. The Maine Department of Health and Human Services notes that suicide is the second leading cause of death in the state among people between the ages of 15 and 34.
Julia Hansen, a Casco Bay High School student, launched the idea for the Yellow Tulip Project when she was just 16. The idea originated from losing two of her best friends in high school to suicide within six months of each other.
The focus of this non-profit organization is to create “Tulip Teams” at schools and organizations who will help talk about mental illness the same way that we talk about any physical illness. “Planting a Hope Garden is a communal way of bringing people together to talk about mental health and work toward smashing the stigma that affects 1 in 5 teenagers,” according to the non-profit’s website.
Yellow tulips were chosen because the tulip was one friend’s favorite flower and yellow was the other’s favorite color. The flower also represents happiness and hope. Hansen hopes the gardens serve two purposes: to raise awareness of those battling depression and other mental illnesses, and to serve as a visual reminder to those who are that people care.
Melissa Denick, Alternative Education teacher at GHS, said, “GHS’ Graduation Standard regarding Civic Engagement and Jobs For Maine’s Graduates’ (JMG) focus on philanthropy provided a perfect opportunity to collaborate. Forty bulbs were planted at each school in the district, after students in the Alternative Education and JMG programs raised funds to purchase the flower bulbs.”
Gorham joins other local schools including Casco Bay High School, Falmouth High School, Waynflete, and Scarborough High School in the creation of “Hope Happens” gardens. To learn more about the project, visit yellowtulipproject.org.