If you see a lime green bandana tied around someone’s backpack on campus, you might not think anything of it. If you see multiple people on campus with lime green bandanas tied around their backpacks, though, you are probably at least a little bit curious. Do they signify something important that you should know about? (Yes.) Are they fashionable as all get out? (Yes.) Will it help you be involved in an important community if you sport one? (Yes.) These bandana carriers are members of a new initiative on campuses nation-wide called The Bandana Project.
The Bandana Project is a campaign that began at the University of Wisconsin – Madison with the mission of spreading mental health awareness. Suicide is the third largest cause of death for individuals between the ages of 15 and 24, following death by accident, and homicide. For college students, it is the second most common cause of death. More than 1,000 suicides occur each year on college campuses, and by the time graduation rolls around, 1 in 10 college students will have contemplated suicide somewhat seriously. An alarming majority of college students who have committed suicide did not seek help from their campus resources, including counseling services. This is a result of a two-fold problem: fear of discrimination, and lack of knowledge of these resources.
Students involved with The Bandana Project sport a lime green bandana on their backpacks to signal that they are a safe, stigma-free space to speak with about mental health resources. Each Bandana Project member carries resource cards with them that list various sources of help, and the contact information for each outlet. One side of the resource card contains a sample script for individuals to use (if needed) when calling 911 in a mental health emergency, while the other side of the resource card details location-specific sources of help. Bandana carriers signify more than just a place to pick up a resource card, though: the bandana is a symbol of solidarity, acceptance and support.
Unfortunately, mental health stigma and discrimination on college campuses hinder many students from understanding that it’s okay to seek support. Resources need to be made more accessible, and that begins with banding together and spreading awareness. The University of Minnesota – Twin Cities campus launched its Bandana Project in September 2017, and is up to 450 bandana carriers as of October 2018. This boom of involvement has influenced great community impact, including the rising up of more advocates and accessible resources, and de-stigmatization. Becoming involved with The Bandana Project is easy. Simply contact email@example.com and let them know you’re interested, complete the training module on canvas, pick up your bandana and resource cards and save lives! You can follow along with the initiative by liking The Bandana Project – UMN on Facebook, or by visiting http://aminds.umn.edu/bandana-project.
Grab a bandana and suit up. Your campus needs you.