The Green Bandana Project and coping with pandemic-related stress


Noora Neiroukh

The Well-Being Suite at the Rec Center.

In February 2020, Greg Jordan, director of University Recreation and Well-Being at Oakland University, noticed a post from the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s social media. They were promoting something called the Bandana Project— which focuses on mental health awareness and breaking the stigma surrounding it. Jordan was then inspired to implement a similar project at OU.

The Green Bandana Project asks participants to display a green bandana (provided by University Recreation & Well-Being) on their bag which is meant to indicate the student is a safe person to speak to about mental health resources and where to find them. Along with the bandana, students are provided with a resource card they can give to other students.

The project began at OU in June of 2020— a critical time for students due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Because of the large number of people who were affected by this, it was really necessary for us to get it out there, have the extra support and let people know that if you see this bandana, [that] person will be there to help you in some sort of way,” Megan Ritz, senior, said. Ritz has been involved with the campaign since its conception.

The bandana is a way to catch people’s attention and get them to ask about its purpose, which facilitates spreading knowledge of campus resources.

“Once you have the bandana, you’re encouraged to wear it around campus all the time,” senior Kori Langdon said. “I’ve had a lot of people come up to me as well and [say], ‘why do you have that on your backpack?’ It just sparks a conversation, and that’s what the goal was: that chain reaction effect.”

Since the project began during the pandemic, many of the initial events were online. By fall 2021, more in-person programming had returned, and the Green Bandana Project began to set up tables around campus to promote the project in-person, even one at a basketball game in Winter 2022.

Looking forward to the future, Langdon hopes the project can be used to help students heal from COVID-19’s lingering impacts.

“I thought it was so important to address that switch from being all virtual and being isolated, back to being in-person and being around people. It was such a big switch,” Langdon said. “So many people struggled with their mental health during the pandemic, and [it’s hard] trying to get back up on your feet and act like we’re back to normal— it’s never going to be normal again. Trying to get back to a good mental state is huge, and I think the Green Bandana Project was placed perfectly at that time.”

Students can learn more about the Green Bandana Project, how to get involved and what mental health resources are available to them through University Recreation and Well-Being’s page on Oakland University’s website.