Offering silent solidarity

Meghan Arbegast | Photo Courtesy
A green bandana symbolizes understanding and awareness.
Photo courtesy: Meghan Arbegast

Students support peers with anxiety and depression by tying a green bandana on their backpacks

The ‘Green Bandana Project’, which has spread throughout university campuses across the nation, is now coming to North Dakota State University.

Halie Van Vleet and Jenna Saatoff, both NDSU students, attended a conference in Saint Louis where they learned about the project from a guest speaker.

“We both really enjoyed what she had to say about it (the project) and doing more research, we still really enjoyed it and wanted to bring it here,” Saatoff said.

With help from the Resident Hall Association (RHA), the Wellness Center and the Health Promotions at the Student Health Services, Van Vleet and Saatoff have received feedback on how to implement the project at NDSU.

The ‘Green Bandana Project’ encourages students to tie a green bandana to their backpacks. By doing this, students are offering silent acknowledgment to peers with anxiety and depression.

Students who participate in the project pledge to be a supporter of those with anxiety and depression by listening to their peers. Students also promise to create an open discussion about mental health as they aspire to destroy mental health stigmas.

The main goal of the project is to ensure everyone feels comfortable talking to others about their mental illness as this project strives to create an accepting environment.

Van Vleet and Saatoff have seen students becoming interested in helping their peers struggling with mental health-related issues with the number of sign-ups they received on their first training session which was held Jan. 28.

Van Vleet mentioned that they were both surprised at how many people signed up to take the pledge saying it was, “… A lot more than we anticipated,” and stated, “They seem very eager to begin.”

The first training session of the Green Bandanna Project gave students an overview of how to recognize the symptoms of anxiety and depression in themselves or someone else. Along with the changes in one’s personality, someone can no longer find interest in past hobbies and detach from their friends.

When discussing how to start a conversation on mental health to someone who may be dealing with anxiety and depression, Van Vleet and Saatoff told the audience to listen to what the person has to say. Showing compassion to the person when they feel like they are alone is another way to show support.

Van Vleet and Saatoff explained that though someone may not be ready to talk about mental health right away, making sure they feel like they have someone to talk when they are ready is what the project is all about.

Within their presentation, Van Vleet and Saatoff also mentioned some of the on-campus resources available to students struggling with their mental health. These resources include Student Health Services, the Counseling Center, University Police and the Firstlink hotline (211).

“Everyone feels like they have to be the best person they have to be which could stress them out to the max cause they don’t know how to deal with everything.”

Jenna Saatoff, NDSU student

Though Van Vleet said there could be improvements to the resources offered to students, she added, “… NDSU does show a lot of support to their students going through mental health-related issues.”

As this was the first training session for the project, Van Vleet and Saatoff explained why students should learn about the warning signs of mental health issues and become involved in the project.

“It will help you become aware of just the basics of stuff and if its something you are interested in, you can go off and either educate yourself more or to just be a friend for someone you know that’s going through issues,” Saatoff said.

Both Van Vleet and Saatoff want the outcomes of the project to positively impact the student body. Van Vleet would like to see students take action on mental health by understanding how to support others. Saatoff wants the campus to be a place where strangers can discuss mental health without being judged.

Whether they think mental health-related illnesses like anxiety and depression are becoming more common in college students, Van Vleet and Saatoff both believe more college students are struggling with mental illnesses.

“I think that the pressures that college students have with maintaining their academics and working and whatever else goes on in their life is becoming more,” Van Vleet said.

“Everyone feels like they have to be the best person they have to be which could stress them out to the max cause they don’t know how to deal with everything,” Saatoff added.

In the future, Van Vleet and Saatoff plan to hold more training sessions as they want to collaborate with more programs and host guest speakers.

Leave a Reply