On Thursday October 10th, coinciding with National Mental Health Day, a Hope Garden was planted by members of the Rutland High School student body. The event was organized by the school’s chapter of Umatter. Umatter at Rutland High School is a group of students who believe in the importance of mental health challenges and suicide awareness and prevention. As outlined by the Umatter website it is the belief of members that “Everyone has a contribution to make, something important to do, and a purpose waiting to be fulfilled. Sometimes people experience mental health challenges, disorders, or illnesses that are significant and require extra help. The message is: you matter because you may need help, and you matter because you may be in a position to help. In an effort to boost awareness of the issues at hand, the organization decided to plant a Hope Garden. A very specific Hope Garden inspired by the Yellow Tulip Project. Yellow Tulip Project was started by Julia Hansen who has had struggles with her own mental health and who has also lost her two best friends to death by suicide. Her hope and the mission of the Yellow Tulip Project are to “Smash the Stigma” of mental health and to talk about mental health and suicide and let people know they aren’t alone. The significance of the Yellow Tulips are related to the friends she lost and her one friend who loved tulips and her other friend whose favorite color was yellow.
Under the supervision of Nancy Ivey, a dedicated and devoted social worker at Rutland High School, the group took charge of the event from requesting donations of tulip bulbs in the community, to creating presentations and posters, to taking an active role in promotion throughout the school to get other members of the student body to participate. The event saw about 100 students take part in the activities that included a presentation by members of the Umatter club, a chance to write down their own individual hopes for their lives, and the actual planting of the Hope Garden in the front courtyard of the school. A second ceremony will be planned for the Spring as the tulips break through and become a welcoming reminder that mental health and suicide awareness and prevention should not be ignored. For my own part, it has been amazing to be welcomed into the group with these passionate youth and to be able to be part of something that can hopefully make a difference and let others know, someone is there to help.
Barrett Hughes, MS, NCC, LCMHC
School Based Clinician – Rutland High School
Rutland Mental Health