The Green Bandana Project signals support for those struggling

January 23, 2023

The goal of the Green Bandana project is to take a broader approach to suicide prevention and mental health support. Students who wear a green bandana on their backpack are not only saying that they support those who are struggling, but also have campus and national resources to help those who may be having mental health struggles.

“We want to raise awareness to those who are struggling in silence, to let them know that there are people in their communities that care and want to help them,” said Trent Brown, a SAAC representative and senior on the SIU men’s basketball team.

Being a fairly new program at Southern Illinois University, the Green Bandana Project was started in the Fall of 2021 by the Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC). Members Cole Steward, former Saluki football player, and Bailey Neuberger, current volleyball redshirt junior, helped start the foundation for the program.


SAAC is a committee made up of student athletes who want to provide insight on their collegiate experience, so the Green Bandana Project fits in with their ideas perfectly.

Originally founded at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2016, the Green Bandana Project has become a national program that is still growing and spreading its message of importance on mental health to many other schools.

The mental health of student athletes is so often overlooked and much of the focus is put on their physical performance. Student athletes are asked to manage hours of their sport and school, and find time to maintain their social life outside of these things. This can weigh heavily on their mental health.

A study done by the NCAA stated that 30% of student athletes said that they were feeling extremely overwhelmed, 25% said that they were feeling mentally exhausted and the study showed that the depression rates among college athletes were considerably higher than those of other students.

“The Green Bandana Project is a very subtle way of showing support for those struggling, but I think it’s a step in the right direction, especially with everything we have seen with student athletes and mental health awareness,” Neuberger said.

Not being in a good place mentally can affect the physical performance of an athlete. The Green Bandana Project has helped to break the stigma around the mental health of athletes and make it a priority; over the past few years mental health has been made a top priority among Saluki athletics.

“I hope that the education that this project brings to people will show them the pressure that we are put under, and while others have high expectations for us, we have higher expectations for ourselves and sometimes that can be a lot,” Neuberger said.


Recently hired Athletic Director Tim Leonard is very concerned about the mental health and well-being of his athletes. He said he believes that athletes’ mental health is just as important as their physical health and that understanding the mental health of the athletes and what needs to be done to help them maintain it is at the top of his priorities.

“In terms of mental health, that is something we’re trying to work on with our sports performance the student athletes well being overall, we want to make sure our athletes are getting proper nutrition, good sleep schedules, the proper strength and conditioning, but we need to understand the mental health of our athletes,” Leonard said.

This year, the Dawg Pound has had three events sponsored by Southern Illinois Healthcare in relation to mental health and the Green Bandana Project. They have themed a men’s and women’s basketball game “green out” to show their support for the project and the athletes mental health; they also did a “rally around the pound” game for women’s volleyball. All of these games had booths set up where anyone in attendance could stop by to learn more about the project and grab a green bandana to show their support.

Having these games sponsored by Southern Illinois Healthcare shows that not only the campus, but also the community supports those who are struggling with mental health issues.

“I think it’s a great thing the Dawg Pound and SIH have done in terms of creating those types of games and atmospheres. I believe highlighted events like these bring on the conversation of mental health and have the ability to reach those in our community that are in need of help and don’t know where to turn,” Brown said.

As the institution is taking mental health more seriously, the athletes are making sure to keep their mental health as their top priority. Maintaining a life away from their sport is one way some athletes are doing this.

“I like to prioritize my life outside of volleyball, having different hobbies outside of my sport really helps. I like to go on walks, running, riding bikes and hanging out with my friends. Volleyball is only one part of my life but if I make it my whole life that’s when it feels like there is more pressure,” Neuberger said.

Brown agrees with putting his mental health first by finding things he enjoys outside of his sport.

“I believe in taking time for yourself even when your schedule seems too busy, talking to friends and family and getting a good amount of sleep every night helps a lot,” Brown said.


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Sports reporter Joei Younker can be reached at [email protected].


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  • H

    Harold A MaipJan 24, 2023 at 1:21 pm

    Re: the stigma of mental  health issues…

    Yes we teach that. Yes, we place it in minds.
    No, we are not required to. 
    Harold A Maio, retired mental health editor