Green Bandana Project offers students hope

College-based movement supporting students with mental illness may come to Wayne State College

Kortney Buresh, Staff Writer

For members of the Green Bandana Project, a green bandana tied to students’ backpacks isn’t a fashion trend, but a silent beacon of hope.

The cloth communicates to others that an individual has experienced a form of mental illness or knows a friend who has. Those who adorn their backpacks with a green bandana represent themselves as an ally and friend to those in need.

According to the Green Bandana Project website, the movement is designed to help people who are experiencing mental illness and give students the opportunity to become more aware of resources available.

The program first reached Wayne State thanks to a couple of students from Winona State College, an institution within WSC’s athletic conference, the NSIC. Those students are track athletes Taylor Juresh and Kari Schneiss.

Juresh said that the Green Bandanna Project’s mission is to bring awareness to mental health through students wearing a green bandanna on their backpack along with providing resources to help.

“By wearing the bandana, it shows how you care and acknowledge the issues surrounded around mental health,” Juresh said. “The main objectives of this project are to stomp the stigma on mental health, have more resources readily available, and increase help seeking behaviors.”

Juresh and Schneiss helped introduce this idea because they are passionate about solidarity and are understanding when it comes to depression and anxiety according to WSU’s official website.

“It started because myself, who struggles with depression, and a good friend of mine, Kari Schneiss, who helped me through all of it became very passionate about mental health,” Juresh said. “We wanted to create an environment at Winona State where mental health was just a normal part of the conversation. To show people it’s okay to not be okay.”

Juresh said Betsy Gerbec from the University of River Falls initially started the project under the name “Dan’s Bandana Project,” Juresh and Schneiss spoke to different groups discussing mental health and what the green bandanas were all about.

“Once we started talking about it all over campus it caught on like wild fire and now we have given over 3,000 bandanas throughout our campus,” Juresh said.

Wayne State plans to do the same. At a Student Athlete Advisory Committee summit held in Aberdeen, North Dakota in May 2019, student athletes from Winona State invited schools within the NSIC to help with the project.

Although the project has not officially started yet, there are plans in motion to get it started at Wayne State.

Lauren Jacobson, a Wayne State volleyball player, attended the summit in May and heard about the project. Jacobson said that this seemed like a great opportunity to promote mental health on Wayne State’s campus and bring students and athletes together as they work toward the same goal.

“I’m hoping that this project can bring different organizations at WSC together to bring awareness for those struggling with mental health,” Jacobson said.

Jacobson said that Wayne State’s SAAC is currently working on a pledge for the project and trying to find a way to fund the bandanas.

By pledging to the project an individual will receive a green bandana to tie on their backpack, and some sort of easily-accessible form with mental health resources on it.

“As a student athlete, I believe this project could be very beneficial for athletes across campus,” Jacobson said. “By increasing conversations on mental health, athletes and non-athletes, it will feel more comfortable addressing mental illness and seeking support.”