We had the good fortune of connecting with Julia Hansen and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Julia, what do you attribute your success to?

The most important factor behind my success has been the way young people have responded to The Yellow Tulip Project’s mission and how they have jumped into this powerful momentum to bring change to their schools and communities. Crafting this non-profit it was crucial for me to create a safe space for young people to help find and define their voices in order to actively make changes that we see are needed. Far too often I have sat at a round table of mental health professionals -as the only youth representative- where they talk and talk and talk about what to do for youth mental health awareness and not one persons asks me what I think needs to be done even as the only young person in the room….a bit odd am I right? People ignore the obvious truth: young people are passionately and actively making the changes that are needed in order to create a more inclusive, safe and healthier future. We are powerful and determined mountain movers who will not be silent in the face of adversity. We have powerful voices that need to be heard and listened to and I am so proud of the work youth leaders can accomplish together. The Yellow Tulip Project is a nationally youth-led organizations that is helping uplift and inspire young people all over the country-expanding internationally as we speak! We are done living silently due to the stigma surrounding mental illness, we are done losing our loved ones to suicide and we are turning our pain into dedicated passion to help others understand they are not alone, that it is okay to not be okay, that there is help and hope out there. Our project is accessible and hopeful with a clear toolkit of how to bring our messages into your community, making it easier to become involved in our movement. The success of my brand is the commitment to honoring and uplifting young peoples voices and supporting them as they find their area within our project that most speaks to them. I see how our ambassadors feel more confident within themselves as they recognize their direct role in advancing our mission.. Each voice helps propel our work forward therefore helping other young people get the help they need. We are a bold and powerful community that strives to bring more hope and beauty into peoples lives and the world as a whole. It is really sweet because if one leader feels unwell or sad one particular week, we understand it so another ambassador will step in to help. YTP is truly a family where we have eachothers backs and are ready to lend a hand if someone on our team is struggling with their mental health as we strive to spread hope into our communities and beyond.

Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?

I have been living with depression for as long as I can remember-many of those years silently struggling due to the deadly stigma surrounding the topic of mental health. At age 15, I lost my two closest friends to suicide within a five month period.

I was done losing loved ones to suicide, I was done being silent in my mental health journey, especially if it meant I could get stronger and help others know they are not alone and that it is okay to not be okay. In April of 2016 I founded The Yellow Tulip Project (YTP), a now nationwide non-profit aimed at ‘smashing the stigma’ surrounding mental health, cultivating safe and inclusive community to help bring hope and light into people’s lives and reiterating that there is nothing to be ashamed of-that getting help is a sign of strength not of weakness. YTP is about hope, community building and action. Our message is simple which makes it accessible for people to get involved.

Students were immediately drawn to this message and were eager to bring YTP to their schools and communities. Today, YTP is proudly youth-led with over 380 YTP ambassadors who are actively bringing hope and mental health awareness into their schools and communities.

Every October during Mental Health Awareness Week, YTP members nationwide gather to plant Yellow Tulip Hope Gardens, a simple act that cultivates a supportive environment for healing and community building. Speakers, poets, musicians, and community members come together to get their hands dirty, plant bulbs and share their stories of hope and resilience. In the spring, during Mental Health Awareness Month, communities gather again to welcome the tulips. After being in the cool dark ground, these bulbs bloom. This is a visual reminder that even amidst hardship we can and will bloom to see the sun. I am incredibly eager to work with Los Angeles schools to bring Hope Gardens to their communities in order to provide a visual reminder of hope and kick start crucial conversations on mental health. Along with this, I hope to curate a community hope garden in DTLA that can be filled with tulips, flowers and even crops! I imagine working with local garden shops and youth leaders to bring together an artistic, uplifting gathering where we can stand together and show that we are not alone, that we are strong and brave and whole.

In 2018 YTP put out a call for models to help tackle stigma. Twenty-two brave models immediately responded.

I Am More: Facing Stigma is a black and white traveling photography exhibit that showcases 22 models-all who have been touched by mental health and/or suicide loss. They are all more than their struggle with mental health. They are musicians, artists, nature lovers, parents, and friends; and they are all Facing Stigma. The exhibit now travels around the country and includes community conversations and a dialogue kit that we created: Facing Stigma: Creating Solutions.

Alongside every image are five “I am More…” statements. For instance, these are mine:
I am Julia
I am a bass player
I am a suicide survivor and deal with depression
I am a nature lover
I am whole.

This beautiful exhibit shows that there is no look to mental illness and is now used in school health classes and travels across the country to address stigma and spread awareness about mental health. {Please let me know if this exhibit interest you and we can work together to bring this specific exhibit to your school/library/community or how we can craft this project with faces from your own community}
I am so humbled and inspired by the hundreds of young people across the country who are eager to get involved with this movement. They know that their voices matter and that they can and will make a difference.

In January of 2021 we launched our blog Dear Minds: Finding Our Yellow which is dedicated to uplifting others personal stories and helping create outlets for self expression and self care practices. I am always looking for more writers/artists/playlist curators etc. if this interests or appeals to anyone. I am very determined to help craft safe and inclusive sanctuaries where people feel their voices and needs are heard and respected as well as can grow and heal within themselves. Sharing pieces of your story creates room for others to feel safe in opening up their vulnerabilities therefore creating a ripple-effect. We are striving to create healthier and happier generations for today and the ones to come.

Lastly, I am so excited to be curating art based programming that incorporates personal wellness/ art and mindfulness into schools. When we talk to our ambassadors so many of them talk about how their mental health struggles began in middle school sometimes even starting in elementary school. Reflecting on your own middle schools (even high school) experience, was there ever a discussion about mental health or mental wellness? The need to take care of both our physical and mental selves? That sometimes we feel sad but that that is okay, that they’re outlets and resources that can help us in our sadness and tools to make us feel less sad? Probably for many the answer would be ‘No’ and yet far too many people experience mental health issues and are living silently due to the stigma. Discussions starting at an early age can help de-stigmatize this topic and help people understand that there is help and hope out there, there are resources and outlets to help me feel more whole again. With this, we have crafted an art based curriculum that incorporates mental wellness practices into early education in order to help educate our younger generations of the healing properties or art, journaling, gardening, breath work and being present: that we are hardworking students but also functioning humans in a time where the world is scary and raw and jagged. We already have schools on the East coast bringing this curriculum into their schools and I am looking forward to working and adjusting the program to best fit Southern California curricula.

I am so proud of the work we are doing and am so honored to work alongside such inspiring, passionate and determined young people who are eager to make a difference in this wild, wacky world. Life is hard and painful and exhausting but life is simultaneously beautiful and vast and interesting and kind and filled with light and love. Shit happens and hope happens. It’s the natural duality of life.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
oooh this is so exciting, I love this question! It has definitely taken me a lot of time to really get my hands dirty with this city as it is so vast and expansive (compared to my home in sweet, tiny Portland, Maine) but more recently I have had time to explore natural spots that bring me a lot of joy! 1. Flint Canyon Trail is a lovely easy hike (~2.5 mi) in Pasadena where you can walk through sycamore trees and greenery and arrive at a vantage point where you can see the vastness of the city. I love to bring a book and/or journal and bask in the sunshine, away from the busyness that lays below.
2. Los Burritos Restaurant is a small Mexican restaurant located on the corner of Sunset Blvd and Echo Park ave. They are a neighborhood staple and have -in my opinion- the best burritos. Something about their wrap is mouth water-even just the thought of it makes me hungry. They are nice portions with affordable prices: two good things for a struggling college student!
3.Sunset Peak is an amazing, out of the city, adventure. Its a 7.3 mile hike in the San Gabriel Mountain range and the views are utterly breathtaking. Coming from Maine, this hike offered ‘snow play’- a cute phrase I heard in LA used for snow activities – which was fun as it is only about 45 minutes away from the city. I immediately felt clearer minded and more peaceful to be amongst the powerful mountains, rocks and trees.
4. During post coronavirus times I highly recommend checking out the precious La Tierra de La Culebra Park and their music events they host twice a month (I believe). Here they have love and community gather in their park to share an afternoon of art and music, poetry and self expression. It is a wonderful event-totally free- where you can just bask in the communal enjoyment of the arts while eating food from the monthly vendors. I have discovered some amazing more underground musicians that I still rock out to today. Along with this, there is an amazing native owned Community Supported Agriculture market across the street that is dedicated to bringing affordable, organic, and local produce to low income communities. They sell handmade jewelry, prints and plants and the proceeds directly support the community and owners’ hardworking business. Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
First and foremost, I want to give a major shoutout to my mama, Suzanne, who is my co-founder in this project, biggest female inspiration, friend, laughing parter, adventure buddy and role model. Her dedication to helping me heal in my own mental health journey, creating space for me to feel the pain and grief I was going through as well as showcasing the light and beauty in the world was tremendous. I stand here today because of her-and my wonderful dad-and this is something I am infinitely grateful for. Now, together, we can continue to impact communities and individuals lives by creating a passionate youth-led momentum that is dedicated to normalizing the conversation surrounding mental health and bringing hope and light into peoples lives.

Raffi is a force of light and inspiration in my life. His immediate support and belief in me and my project helped spark my power and my voice. In a time when so many adults were trying to push the topic of mental health under the rug and ignore it and me, he stopped and he listened and be helped kickstart what The Yellow Tulip Project is today.

I want to shout out all the amazing YTP ambassadors who are positive forces of change and true are redirecting the way we address mental health in our society. You are all powerful, brave and exceptional forces of good and I feel incredibly grateful for each and everyone of you and your involvement in YTP.

I want to shoutout lovely Susan for working with me to curate the Art Based Programs to incorporate mental wellness practices into early education. Your passionate, loving, soothing yet determined way of waking through this life brings so much joy and peace into this world and I am so grateful to call you a friend and a mentor.

Lastly, I want to shoutout my soul sister best friend Olivia who helped me survive (literally) high school. She always did and always does help me see the joy and goodness in this wold and makes me laugh so hard even when laughing seems unimaginable. Even when times are dark and hard this bad-ass lady helps me hold onto the good and remind me that I am loved. I love you Olivia. Your constant love and support in me an my project has helped propel me to continue to do the work that I do as you have kept me grounded and whole.

Website: https://theyellowtulipproject.org

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/theyellowtulipproject/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/theyellowtulipproject

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=theyellowtulipproject

Other: Blog: https://dearmindsfindingouryellow.wordpress.com Podcast: https://open.spotify.com/show/3cUBztggbDf1B63RphSfiP

Image Credits
Lissy Thomas is our amazing photographer for our traveling photo exhibit I Am More: Facing Stigma.

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutLA is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.