From time to time, the UW-Madison campus is flooded with lime green bandanas tied to students' backpacks. The project, hosted by the UW-Madison chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Health, has even spread to other orgs and beyond Madison.
NAMI is a national mental health organization that provides advocacy, education and support for those facing mental illnesses. Tamar Halamann, UW-Madison junior and fundraising coordinator of NAMI-UW, expanded on the chapter’s philosophy of navigating mental illness.
“Our goal is to get people the resources they need, give them more support and just get a more engaged community,” Halamann said.
In 2016, UW-Madison freshman Colin Bass, a member of NAMI-UW, launched the Green Bandana project to build awareness and support for suicide prevention. NAMI-UW handed out lime green bandanas for students to tie to their backpacks. Any student with a bandana also carried a card listing off mental health resources.
The student organization has distributed over 6,000 bandanas on the UW-Madison campus as of fall 2018.
“It’s supposed to be a symbol that you advocate for mental health and mostly has to do with suicide prevention,” Halamann said. “[Having a green bandana] shows that if someone is struggling, you are someone who they can talk to.”
NAMI-UW has Bandana Project outreach programs with other campus organizations, where NAMI members speak about the importance of mental health and support.
The project also expanded beyond Madison to other college campuses, like the University of Minnesota — and support continues to grow.
“As you walk down the street, a lot of backpacks have them, which is really exciting,” Halamann said.
NAMI-UW also runs WiChat, a weekly peer support group for students to meet and have an open discussion about what they are dealing with and get support from fellow students.
“Mental health is a really important issue anywhere and, especially on college campuses, it’s really hard for people to open up,” Halamann said. “But I think it’s important that at least we get the conversation going and get people more comfortable discussing their issues and how to support each other.”
NAMI-UW is located on the third floor of the Student Activity Center. Office hours and mental health resources can be found on their website.