Green Bandana Project: Students supporting students

The Green Bandana Project aims to help students access mental health resources. At the conclusion of Green Bandana Project training sessions, students receive their green bandana and a card with conversation starters and resources (Grace Needham | Collegian Media Group)

When strolling through campus, you may occasionally see a green bandana fastened around the backpack strap of a student as he or she hurries to class. This bandana, while subtle, might just be the exact thing someone needs to see. 

The Green Bandana Project, a nationwide movement, has found its way to Kansas State. According to a presentation put on by the Thrive Navigators, the project was started at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to help students find resources if they are in mental distress.

Students sporting green bandanas have received short training sessions teaching them how to engage in empathetic conversations and guide other students toward mental health resources. Green bandana-wearers invite you to approach them and ask them for help if you or someone you know needs support.

The Thrive Navigators, a student group under the umbrella of Lafene Health Center and the Morrison Family Center for Student Well-being, leads Green Bandana Project training sessions for students and faculty interested in becoming a part of the movement. While these sessions are not all-encompassing, given that they last only an hour, they provide trainees with the necessary skills to serve as “waypoints” in the mental health journeys of others.

According to the Thrive Navigators’ Green Bandana Project presentation, an alarming 29% of the K-State student body has had thoughts of attempting suicide. Only about half of those students felt they could share these thoughts with friends. Becca Heinz, senior in kinesiology and president of the Thrive Navigators, joined the organization because she said raising awareness for mental health is invaluable on a college campus. 

Heinz believes students should attend Green Bandana Project training sessions to prepare for potential difficult situations with friends or family.

“I think it’s a really great way for students to just become more aware of how to approach conversations with other people,” Heinz said. “In the event that somebody they’re close with is having a mental health problem or even just a hard day or some challenge in life, it gives you tools to be able to know how to approach that and help them out in whatever way that may be.”

Anthony Harris, junior in social work and event coordinator for the Thrive Navigators, said the sessions will make attendees feel more confident in their ability to bring up difficult topics with people they care about.

“I think it can help people be a little bit more empathetic and caring,” Harris said. “Talking about mental health isn’t comfortable for everybody. That’s just how it is. I think it can make people a little bit less uncomfortable to have conversations like this.”

Alex Gibbons, sophomore in construction science and management, and Corbin Panther, sophomore in construction science and management, were just two of many to attend the Green Bandana Project training on March 21. Gibbons said he was alarmed to find out just how many students find themselves in mental distress at K-State and was glad he attended a session.

“I knew I was going to get a lot of good information out of it and on top of that, it’s just a good way to be able to help other people, I believe,” Gibbons said.

Panther said he now feels prepared to help other students if he sees any warning signs.

“I think, more than anything, what I got out of it was just how to reply, come the situation, basically, how to keep a conversation going and what to say and what not to say,” Panther said. 

 If you’re interested in earning your green bandana, you can sign up for training through K-State’s website. At the end of the presentation, you will get a bandana and a card with conversation starters and a list of resources. Come ready to listen and learn.