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Yellow Tulip Project celebrates 'World Mental Health Day' in Portland

Dozens came to Monument Square in Portland Sunday as the youth-led non-profit, the Yellow Tulip Project, worked to break the stigma surrounding mental health.

PORTLAND, Maine — Talking about mental health can be challenging and sometimes scary. That's why the Yellow Tulip Project is working to break the stigma surrounding mental illness, and let folks know they are not alone.

"It can be hard to talk about mental health, which is exactly why we need to do it," said Delaney Ireland, a first-year student at Central Kennebec Valley Community College, and Yellow Tulip Project volunteer.

On Sunday, dozens of folks came out to Monument Square in downtown Portland to celebrate World Mental Health Day alongside the Yellow Tulip Project. 

"It's just been incredible to connect with so many young people who are really passionate about mental health, it just gives me a lot of hope," said Tori Bacall, social media coordinator for the Yellow Tulip Project.

The Yellow Tulip Project is a youth-led non-profit organization. It was founded in 2016 by Suzanne Fox and her daughter Julia Hanson, after Hanson lost two of her close friends to suicide.

"I think what we're doing is taking something that's scary to talk about, and bringing it out in a hopeful community-based way," said Fox.

On Sunday, Fox and a team of volunteers hosted a celebration at Monument Square featuring speeches, poems, and musical performances.

Volunteers also handed out tulip bulbs to be planted. 

"The yellow tulip is a symbol for hope because they're planted in October, and in the ground all throughout winter, and then they burst through the ground and just kind of this beautiful symbol," said Bacall. 

"It's hard to talk about. But it's important to trip and fall and try to have these conversations than to not," said Fox. 

Fox and volunteers with the Yellow Tulip Project hope events like this help break the stigma of mental health struggles, and can allow those struggling to feel more comfortable seeking help.

If you or someone you know is struggling, the Maine Crisis Hotline can be called 24/7 at 1-888-568-1112.