The Ohio State University at Mansfield

New project offers aid to students impacted by mental health issues

March 2, 2022

By Gabriel Gesing

“See a green bandana [on campus] and know that person is a safe place to go,” said Ohio State Mansfield student Katie Reitler.

Lime green is the color of mental health awareness, and a new NAMI on Campus project aims to help students suffering from anxiety, depression and mental illness through the use of the color green. The Green Bandana Project strives to promote mental health awareness, eliminate the stigma around mental illness and prevent suicide.

NAMI on Campus is a student organization that works with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of Richland County, an organization that supports individuals and families who have been impacted by mental illness. Reitler is an officer for NAMI on Campus.

The Green Bandana Project was founded by a student at University of Wisconsin-Madison named Conlin Bass who lost a close friend and a family member to suicide in high school and vowed to normalize reaching out for help for mental health issues. By displaying the bandanas, students can show that they are willing to speak about mental illness, and it serves as a signal that others can open up to them. Students often tie them to purses or backpacks. Some wear them as bracelets or simply tie them around their heads.

According to the NAMI website, mental health issues are particularly prevalent among college students. One in five struggles with mental illness, and 75% of mental health diagnoses are given to adults under 24. The isolation associated with the pandemic has only amplified the issue. The Wexner Medical Center conducted a study that found that cases of burnout have risen from 40% in 2020 to 71% in 2021.

A recent NAMI on Campus meeting provided advice for students who want to be an ally to those struggling with mental illness. The meeting was led by Annabelle Coffman, Associate Director of NAMI Richland County and a 2015 graduate of The Ohio State University. She encouraged active listening methods and explained how simple interactions can make all the difference.

“I think people get caught up in thinking that they need to know all the answers, but that’s not typically what a person wants. They just want to be heard, and then we can figure it out together,” said Coffman.

Reitler and Coffman met with Conlin Bass and immediately felt a shared passion to help. Soon after, they started working to bring the Bandana Project to the campus. The goal is to connect students with the support they need. At the event on campus, students received cards with resources for those suffering from mental health issues, such as crisis lines and counseling services.

NAMI on Campus meets via Zoom every second Monday of the month at 4pm and in-person every 3rd Thursday at 4pm. If you would like to learn more, you can follow the group on Instagram.