At Ohio State Mansfield, lime green means help
Students, faculty and staff use colored bandanas to signal a willingness to discuss mental health and prevent suicide.
Everywhere she goes at Ohio State Mansfield, Katie Reitler wears a lime-colored bandana. It’s not a fashion choice — it’s a flashy message that she is a good listener, a shoulder to lean on, a potential friend. And the senior is not the only one.
Faculty, staff and students are tying the bandanas to purses and backpacks and around wrists and heads to show support, destigmatize mental illness and prevent suicide. The bandanas mean the owners are willing to speak about mental illness.
“See a green bandana and know that person is a safe place to go,” Reitler says.
Students on the Mansfield campus began the effort last year in collaboration with an Ohio State alumna, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of Richland County and nearby North Central State College. They had worked together the year before to establish a student organization, NAMI on Campus, with the same goals.
With ties to Ohio State and a passion for openness about mental health, Annabelle Coffman ’16 was critical to both efforts.
“I think people get caught up in thinking that they need to know all the answers, but that’s not typically what a person [who needs help] wants,” says Coffman, formerly with NAMI of Richland County. “They just want to be heard, and then we can figure it out together.”
Conlin Bass, a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, founded the Green Bandana Project in 2016 after losing both a close friend and a family member to suicide. Reitler and Coffman met with him before launching the Ohio State Mansfield effort.
“Our goal is for all students to be aware of the significance of a green bandana,” Reitler says. “And someday, every student will be wearing one.”