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Meet Julia Hansen of The Yellow Tulip Project in Highland Park and Eagle Rock

Today we’d like to introduce you to Julia Hansen.

Julia, before we jump into specific questions about your organization, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I am a sophomore at Occidental College, but to be honest, I never thought I’d make it here. All I can say is I am so grateful that I did and that I’m so proud that I held onto hope even when it was really hard to find at times. During my sophomore year of high school, I lost my two best friends to suicide within a four-month period. Payton and Beata were both unbelievably beautiful and powerful young women that I feel honored to have known. I still carry them with me wherever I go.

During this immense grief-filled time, I also was struggling with my own levels of depression, self-harm and suicidal ideation. I was living silently with my mental health issues due to the silencing stigma that surrounds this topic. It took the loss of my first best friend for me to begin to finally talk and get the help I needed and deserved. Even amongst pain and darkness, I was able to find hope in this wild world and wanted to spread this message far and wide. Life is this wacky, wonderful, painful, beautiful, messy experience that will take you on a roller coaster of highs and lows but hope is always there.

During my sophomore year, as a way to help me heal and to help others, I created The Yellow Tulip Project, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit aimed at destigmatizing mental illness, bringing hope and light into people’s lives, building a community where people realize there is help and hope out there. (www.theyellowtulipproject.org.) Mental illness is incredibly prevalent in society and yet this topic is pushed under the rug and not addressed. I believe that we can and will change this and help normalize this topic so people can get help. Both Payton and Beata dedicated their lives to helping others and I feel that through this project their legacies live on. To me it is a constant reminder that Hope Happens.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Overall the creation of The Yellow Tulip Project (YTP) has been a very smooth road. The immense support we’ve received from communities and students and organizations has been truly remarkable. We would not be able to be where we are today-touching so many people’s lives – if it wasn’t for the incredible love and support. That being said this is not a linear journey.

YTP is very dedicated to normalizing the conversation around mental illness everywhere and especially in schools. Since the topic is so stigmatized, many educators and/or community members continue to try and push the topic under the rug. It is the powerful and inspiring youth that are making the change and helping one another it is okay to not be okay

We’d love to hear more about your organization.
At YTP, we have created a space for determined youth and community members to combat the silencing stigma that surrounds mental illness and to show how it is okay to not be okay and that you are never alone. We do this by planting Yellow Tulip Hope Gardens in October during Mental Health Awareness Week. The simple act of coming together as a community to get our hands dirty, plant yellow bulbs and talk about mental illness helps normalize the conversation and helps people feel less alone.

Since The Yellow Tulip Project (YTP) was created, over three years now, we have over 250 youth ambassadors in over 35 states and a few international ones. This is happening because we are DONE being silent and ready to talk so we can help others and ourselves. On our Facebook page, we have created a special feature called “Feature Friday”. Every Friday one of our youth ambassadors shares their honest and raw story. We know that the only way to normalize the conversations around mental illness is to actually have a conversation. These brave students that share their stories are helping so many others realize that they are not alone.

Mental illness is incredibly prevalent in society and yet this topic is pushed under the rug and not addressed. I believe that we can and will change this and help normalize this topic so people can take care of themselves they way they may need and deserve. There are two things I am most proud of. First, I am so proud that YTP has helped save people’s lives. Through conversations and reminders of hope and beauty in the world, people have decided to choose life over suicide. Even if one person’s life was positively impacted I feel that YTP’s work has been accomplished.

Secondly, I am very proud of I Am More: Facing Stigma, a traveling black and white photography exhibit that has 22 brave diverse models showing that they are more than their mental health challenge. For so long people have said ‘oh but you don’t look depressed” as if there is a ‘look’ to mental illness.

This exhibit is showing how there is so much more below people surfaces and that their mental illness does not define them. I have depression but depression doesn’t have me. I am a bass player, I am a sibling, I am a friend, I am dealing with PTSD and depression, I am an adventurer. My mental illness is part of my story but there is so much more that makes me who I am. This exhibit just held its opening reception at Logan Airport in the international terminal. This means that thousands of people each day will walk past them and hopefully someone will take the time to read a bit deeper and either learn that there’s no ‘look’ to mental health or understand that they are not alone and that it is okay to get the help they need.

We are just entering our fourth year of existence and see ourselves as newcomers to the conversation. What sets us apart is our focus on action, hope and community. We are also driven by young people (mostly high school students) which is pretty awesome and unique.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
In the luck realm, I suppose I am unlucky for losing my two best friends but lucky for my incredible family and community who showed me the beauty again in the world. I don’t necessarily believe in luck but that doesn’t mean I don’t feel immense gratitude. I would not be here today if it wasn’t for my family’s unconditional love and belief in me. The Yellow Tulip Project would not exist if it wasn’t for my sweet little city’s ability to join our work in smashing the stigma around mental illness.

Our motto for this project has always been “why not?”. Why not see if Logan can host our traveling exhibit, why not see if the mayor will proclaim the first Sunday in May as a Yellow Tulip Hope Day. We fiercely believe that change has to happen. We’re so tired of inaction and of losing our friends to suicide. We’re tired of suffering alone and we are so ready to cause a ruckus. With our passion and determination to help others and let them know that asking for help is a strength not a weakness, I feel that we can only continue to grow and touch people’s lives. Thank you so very much.

Contact Info:

  • Address:
    Julia Hansen
    Occidental College
    1600 Campus Rd #1114
    Los Angeles, CA, 90041
  • Website: https://theyellowtulipproject.org
  • Phone: (207)415-8729
  • Email: suzanne@theyellowtulipproject.org
  • Instagram: @theyellowtulipproject
  • Facebook: @theyellowtulipproject
  • Twitter: @yellowtuliporg

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