Photo courtesy of Luther College
Last semester Active Minds, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and Residence Life worked together to sponser The Green Bandana Project at Luther.
“[Students] tabled in [the] Union for several days leading up to the lecture by Kevin Heins on the [Validate, Appreciate and Refer] initiative,” Director of Counseling Services Meg Hammes said. “We are a campus of 1800 [people], and we handed out 400 bandanas within four days.”
The Green Bandana Project is a mental health awareness initiative that began at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and spread to surrounding campuses. The purpose of the program is to spread awareness about the resources available on campus for individuals experiencing mental health related struggles, including information about
Luther Counseling Services. Through tabling events, interested students are given a green bandana which they tie onto their backpacks to indicate that they are approachable, supportive, and aware of the appropriate resources on campus.
The ultimate goal of the project is to ensure that everyone feels supported through their mental health challenges, and to create a stigma-free environment.
“Everybody struggles with mental health,” Samantha Morgan (‘20), who brought the project to Luther, said. “I’ve had friends that have been suicidal or dealt with depression, so these issues are very prevalent, but I know that it still isn’t talked about as regularly as it should be. Through my training as an RA and personal experiences of learning how important mental health awareness and resources are, this project is a simple way of bringing more awareness.”
Morgan received extensive support and training in outreach education on campus, including Question, Persuade, and Refer training and escalation workshops due to her position as an Assistant Hall director. Despite this, she felt that more needed to be done to support students facing mental health challenges at Luther.
She heard about the project from a friend at Upper Iowa University, and presented the idea to Counselor Bobbi-Jo Molokken. She helped Morgan to introduce the project here, along with student groups like Active Minds and NAMI.
Counseling Outreach Assistant, Hannah Wollack (‘20) believes that mental health allies are necessary on Luther’s campus.
“I know a lot of people on campus who struggle with mental health,” Wollack said. “It’s just great to have the bandanas out there so that they can see them and know they are not alone, and there are other people who support them, and are there for them to talk to.”
Morgan is optimistic about what the response to the project implies for the future.
“I think it can open the door to more conversation,” Morgan said. “I have been approached many times being asked when we were going to start tabling again. For someone to ask when we are going to table and to receive that bandana shows it’s something that they have been thinking about. It definitely opens up the conversation, which I think is a huge first step.”
Wollack and Morgan agree that more still needs to be done on campus to support students facing struggles with their mental health and to expand the discourse around mental health.
“I think we need to start more open conversations about mental health, to have it added to the curriculum,” Wollack said “We hosted Kevin Hines last semester. That was a big deal for us because we had a lot of people show up to his lecture on how important it was for us to keep track of our mental health. So I think hosting more events where we talk about it would be very helpful.”