Yellow Tulip Project: How to Improve Mental Health with Dogs
The youth-led mental health organization Yellow Tulip Project has launched a mental health awareness campaign called Tails & Tulips, where people are encouraged to get out and move it with their pets. Director of Events, 18-year-old Madeleine Manno of Boston, Massachusetts — who has two dogs and two cats herself — says, “Animals have such a healing effect, and time simply spent petting your cat or playing with your dog can boost your mood. Pets are also a huge motivator for us to go out and #MoveIt!”
The 2022 campaign wants participants to #MoveIt with their pets and take pictures, whether it be walking, hiking, running or swimming. Participants can then post the dog-human pictures on their social media pages so their friends, family members and other social followers will feel inspired to get involved. At the same time, says Madelaine, their followers will become aware of the stigma surrounding mental health and feel compelled to smash it!
Madeleine says you do not have to have a pet to register for the month-long event, and any form of movement – whether it’s running a 5k or knitting – is more than welcome. People of all ages, body types and physical abilities are encouraged to join and register for free. She says, “As a bonus, when you raise or donate $35-plus, you will receive a thank you letter from one of our ambassadors and an adorable bandana that you can put on your pet or wear yourself!”
Click here to get involved in the Tails & Tulips campaign or learn more about the organization. Or follow on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and YouTube @theyellowtulipproject. Listen to the Yellow Tulip Project podcast, Roots and Wings on Spotify: Roots & Wings, Taffy Talks
The Yellow Tulip Project Takes On Mental Health and Dogs
Dogster caught up with Madeleine to dig deeper into the Yellow Tulip Project’s Tails & Tulips campaign. Madeleine has been a part of the Yellow Tulip Project for the past three years as a passionate advocate for mental health. She is taking it a step further by attending the University of Pittsburgh next year to study Applied Developmental Psychology and Special Education.
Dogster: Can you tell us more about the Yellow Tulip Project?
Madeleine: The Yellow Tulip Project was founded by Julia Hansen and her mother, Suzanne. Julia was dealing with her own depression throughout middle school and high school, and sadly lost two of her best friends to suicide when she was a 15-year-old high school sophomore. Tired of the stigma surrounding mental illness, Julia began to speak out about mental health and wanted to create a safe space for youth to build community and provide hope to all. Thus, the Yellow Tulip Project was born and has a strong team of youth leaders who spend their time advocating for mental health reform and sparking conversations about how to combat the rising rates of suicide. See Julia Hansens’ Ted Talk about depression, suicide and mental health here.
Dogster: We love that this year’s campaign theme is Tails & Tulips and involved dogs. Can you tell us how the campaign Tails & Tulips came about?
Madeleine: When the Move It Planning Team met in November 2021, we were trying to think of fun, innovative ideas to get more people to participate in Move It! We were thinking about how hard the past few years have been mentally because of the pandemic and everything that’s happened in the world, and we reflected on how our pets brought us so much comfort during those times. … Although we may begrudgingly wake up early in the morning to walk our dogs, it is this little bit of exercise that sets the tone for our entire day. I know that when I walk my dog it gives me the time and silence to reflect on my goals, how I’m feeling and what I can do to better myself.
Dogster: How does the Yellow Tulip Project believe that dogs can help with mental health?
Madeleine: The Yellow Tulip Project believes that dogs can help with mental health because they are our constant supporters and always give us so much love. As soon as you walk in the door from a long, hard day you have a furry friend that excitedly greets you! Dogs encourage you to improve your own health when they beg you to take them on a walk or throw a ball to them. Dogs are always willing to go on any adventure with you, so spending time with your dog is a great excuse to get moving whether you go on a hike, swim, run or even do yoga! Dogs are such great support animals and will be with you no matter what: They don’t judge you or think less of you. To them, you are their entire world, and they deeply love and cherish you. Having a best friend like a dog is definitely a wonderful thing, and they are amazing animals to have as support systems when you are feeling down.
Dogster: Do you believe that discussing mental health is more important than ever before?
Madeleine: 100% – I think that although the pandemic brought so much devastation and loss, it also amplified the mental health conversation like never before and made it mainstream. Everyone experienced the loneliness and anxiety of a global pandemic and quarantine, so mental health became universally acknowledged. And for those of us who were suffering in silence before COVID, this feels like, in some way, a victory.
I know that if middle school me had more conversations about mental health – or even if I just heard the experiences of people older than me that were also struggling with what I was struggling with – I would have felt so much less alone and honestly might not have struggled as much. These conversations have such a healing impact – they smash the stigma and, ultimately, save lives.
Dogster: If our readers are struggling with mental health, what are some ways they can get help?
I am not a mental health professional. That said, our youth leaders created a really awesome self-care guide that consists of advice and self-care tips for anyone struggling with their mental health. Here are my tips from the guide:
Go into each experience with an open mind! I tend to create so much worry when I try something new, but always end up realizing that there is nothing to worry about! Although it isn’t easy to tune out this doubtful voice, I have found that positive affirmations and helpful coping skills are essential. Affirmations help me to be in a positive headspace and have a more optimistic approach to every experience.
Here are my self-care tips:
- Release your energy: Have you ever felt a buildup of energy after a really nerve-wracking or super exciting event? I know I have. In order to release this energy, I love to do meditation and yoga. Both have allowed me space to just breathe and let go.
- Music: Music has so much power to set the tone of your day. I have created a daily music playlist, where I choose one song that encapsulates my day and add it to a playlist.
- Art journaling: I love to create in whatever way possible, especially in my journal! My journal has allowed me to escape the pressure and explore my creative freedom. I write down my feelings, doodle, splat paint on the pages, and include mementos
- It’s OK to be alone: Being alone is both hard and scary but has allowed me to tune in with my emotions, decompress and not worry about those around me. I recommend going to a spot in nature, reading or taking yourself on a date to your favorite coffee shop.
If you’re really struggling, consider contacting a mental health hotline:
Dogster: What is your hope for the Yellow Tulip Project? Where do you hope it will be in five years?
Madeleine: Five years ago, when the Yellow Tulip Project was just founded, all we had was a cute logo and a determined high school student that was tired of the silence around mental illness. Our message of hope, action and stigma reduction has exploded onto the national stage in such a short time period. In our next five years, I hope that the stigma surrounding mental illness will truly be smashed so that people know that there is help and hope out there and that it is OK to not be OK and that things can and will get better. I hope that when people see a yellow tulip they are reminded of hope.