Winona State University junior Taylor Juresh walks across campus with a green bandana tied to her backpack. The bandanas symbolize solidarity with those suffering from depression and anxiety.
by NATHANIEL NELSON
Walking around the Winona State University (WSU) campus, occasionally, bright hints of green can be seen on students’ backpacks. Hundreds of students have become part of the Green Bandana Project, a new initiative at WSU show support for those struggling with depression and anxiety throughout the community.
The program, which first began at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, was brought to Winona by WSU student Taylor Juresh after she began experiencing depression herself. Last year, Juresh explained that she knew something was off.
“At the beginning of this [school] year, I began getting sad and I didn’t know what was happening,” Juresh said. “I would cry every other week, and then every week, and then every three days, and eventually several times a day.”
She began to lose weight, and couldn’t sleep no matter how hard she tried. One day, she abandoned a workout at track and field practice –– something she had never done before. “That’s not me,” she said. Afterward, she talked about it with her roommate and friends who told her coach, and her coach brought her to therapy the next day.
While doing some research about depression online, she stumbled across an article about the Green Bandana Project. This was the impetus for the project, she explained. “I was very ashamed about [my depression],” Juresh admitted. “I thought if I saw bandanas and support, it would mean a lot.”
She eventually showed the article to her friend Kari Schneiss, who had helped her find resources to better handle her depression early on. When she saw the project, she told Juresh that they should try to bring the movement to their campus. “She didn’t really bring it to me like ‘let’s do this,’ but we did,” Schniess said.
The program has a few steps to it, Schneiss explained. Individuals sign a pledge and receive a green bandana, which they tie to their backpacks to show their support. They are also given information cards detailing the warning signs of depression and where to get help, including crisis lines and counseling services.
Schneiss and Juresh began pitching the program to counselors and student groups to get it off the ground, and support was overwhelming.
“It just kind of tumbled since then. People have been coming on board each and every time we meet with them, and it kind of rolled into this huge thing,” Schneiss said.
More than 1,000 bandanas have been given out since the program started in January, and Juresh explained that the third set of 500 is almost gone, so now, hundreds of students are displaying their support for the program.
But the program is more than just symbols, Schneiss said.
“It’s bringing everyone together and saying you’re not alone in this. It’s a big friendship, and we’re trying to show people that they have something, and they’re not taking it on alone,” Schneiss said.
The biggest aspect of the Green Bandana Project is outreach. While showing support is one thing, acting on that support is another and, for Juresh, that’s where the project comes into play –– helping those suffering from depression find the support and help that they need.
“Most people don’t know how to get help. Even having someone go with you up to therapy is a huge help,” she said.
“Having this project brings everyone together and helps stop this stigma. That’s the most important thing,” Schneiss added.
In addition to the bandanas and flyers, Schneiss and Juresh also speak to many organizations on campus about depression to spread the word and recruit more supporters. “I tell my story, and we try to make the communication as open and authentic as possible,” Juresh said, adding that she hopes by telling her story, she can inspire more people to seek help.
While the project is centered at WSU, it’s not relegated to only students. “You don’t have to be in college to sign the pledge. Any community member can sign it,” Juresh said. After signing the pledge online, signees can pick up a bandana and handouts from the Integrated Wellness Center on campus and begin spreading the word themselves.
“I don’t think we talk about about depression and mental health as much as we should, and this is a great way to start talking about it and get people involved,” Juresh said.
For more information, or to sign the pledge, visit https://www.winona.edu/wellness/green-bandana-project.asp or visit the Integrated Wellness Center on the WSU campus.