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Bandana Project to raise mental health awareness

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The Greater Than Campaign, a Student Government Association initiative to support students’ mental health, recently brought the Bandana Project to St. Olaf. Founded by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the Bandana Project is a program designed to spread awareness of resources for those with mental illness.

Members of the Bandana Project will have green bandanas tied around their backpacks, signifying that they have completed a Greater Than training program and can provide information on mental health resources.

“This bandana signifies three things,” the Greater Than Executive team wrote in an email to St. Olaf students. “This person is open to having a conversation about mental health. This person carries and knows where resources are. This person stands with and supports those who have a mental illness and those who are struggling.”

Due to its success on campuses such as UW-Madison, Greater Than Community Director Olivia Prescott ’20 believed that the Bandana Project would benefit the St. Olaf community.

“I think that, as Greater Than, we’re kind of the student connection to resources,” Prescott said. “So the green bandana symbolizes more than having resources, it shows that you care about mental health and you’re kind of an ally.”

Greater Than hosted their first Bandana Project training on Dec. 3 and passed out green bandanas to about 50 students, Prescott said. When students received a bandana, they were also given a card listing mental health resources on campus. These cards include what to do in a mental health emergency as well as other non-emergency numbers and resources for students.

Prescott said that a mental health crisis is when someone has a suicide plan, is experiencing a panic attack or is under extreme distress and cannot calm themselves down. The hour-long training taught Bandana Project participants how to assess if someone is in a crisis and provided them with resources to pass along to students.

“Not that that would be a common occurrence but if someone is [having a mental health crisis], we want them to feel like they’re prepared,” Prescott said.

The members of the Bandana Project will always carry a resource card in the case that a student approachesthem.

Greater Than plans to have recurring training sessions monthly for the Bandana Project, Prescott said. They hope, by doing this, they can keep students up to date with events and allow  people who want to join later on to have that opportunity.

“We’re excited about the Bandana Project,” Prescott said. “We’re happy that so many people want to be involved and if anyone wants to be involved, we’d encourage them to be a part of it.”