Green Bandana Project combats mental health stigmas

The Green Bandana Project is a new symbolic initiative working to end the stigma around talking about mental health struggles. Members of the Oakland University community carrying a green bandana have made a commitment to being a resource and friendly face for those who need help. 

Launched by University Recreation and Wellbeing (Rec Well), the Green Bandana Project has been becoming popular at colleges across the country. It got on Rec Well’s radar after Director Greg Jordan saw the green bandanas in the student section at a University of Wisconsin, Madison basketball game in February. He contacted the wellness branch of the department, asking to bring the project to OU.

“I had a video call with someone from, I believe it was University of Wisconsin, and he talked about it, and I decided in that moment that this is something that we really needed to do,” senior Wellness Ambassador Megan Ritz said. “I really wanted to get it going, my advisor really wanted to push the project forward, so we started right before the quarantine started … We were able to get so many people over quarantine [involved], and even just last week we probably had about 100 people get bandanas.” 

While OU is not the first university to introduce this project to this campus, it is still a relatively new idea. About half a dozen schools across the country are participating — OU is the first in Michigan. So far Rec Well has distributed over 250 bandanas, and they are hoping to get more out now that the semester has started. 

Despite rolling the project out right as COVID-19 hit, Rec Well believes the timing of it is perfect. According to Health and Wellness Coordinator Cortney Heileman, the Green Bandana Project ties in well with their launch of the iPause program.

“At the end of the iPause workshop, we have a call to action, and with that call to action is how we introduce the Green Bandana Project by saying, ‘you know what, now that we have identified how stress affects us and how we want to try and combat that stress, let’s show support to others as well as to ourselves with mental health, and this is an awesome way that you can do that, so let’s get involved with the Green Bandana Project at OU,’” Heileman said.

According to Heileman, the timing was also appropriate to launch the Green Bandana Project due to the support it got from student organizations like OU Student Congress. 

This past winter, President Ethan Bradley and Vice President Annabella Jankowski ran on a platform of supporting mental health initiatives, and both are participants in the Green Bandana Project. 

Since the semester has begun, Heileman has seen students wearing the bandanas on their backpacks around campus. Both her and Rec Well Associate Director of Programs and Administration Becky Lewis think this project will be valuable to create a safe and welcoming environment at Oakland.

“It’s important for campus culture for the students, but it’s also important to get it into the culture of faculty and staff,” Lewis said. “Because we have faculty working with students you know either virtually or in person, and students need resources sometimes, and they’re trying to figure out where to point them. Faculty and staff also need resources for themselves, so I think it’s a bigger picture thing.”

Students can join the Green Bandana Project by searching for it on the Oakland website or through filling out their form. Each bandana comes with a resource card for students to reference should they need access to support services.