Mental health initiative takes center stage at UMD


DULUTH, MN. (KBJR) – Over the past few years, mental health awareness in athletics has become a major talking point, and that’s exactly the case at the University of Minnesota Duluth.

Before graduation, 1 in 10 students will have considered suicide, while 28% of students don’t know where to go on campus for mental health support. So University of Minnesota Duluth athletes decided to change those stats by bringing the Green Bandana Project to UMD, led by President Becca Osborne and Vice President Jordyn Thomas.

“The biggest barrier that prevents people from coming forward and seeking help to receive help is the stigma associated with it. Especially in athletics, whether it’s NCAA athletics or high school athletics, there’s a huge stigma because we were raised in a culture of ‘sucks, you’re fine , do not admit defeat ”. I think these slogans are sort of twisted the wrong way, and our campaign is about reducing the stigma and showing support,” Osborne said.

“Take a bandana with a promise, and you tie the bandana around your backpack, and that’s a sign that you’re a mental health resource for someone who’s struggling, so if you’re walking around the campus of UMD, everyone has green bandanas everywhere, and it’s just a sign of support for those who are struggling and that you have the resources to help them if they need it,” Thomas said.

The green bandana is just the start; UMD athletes host several events throughout the year to support mental health awareness. One such major event is the Mental Health Awareness Game, which every UMD campus team hosts at least once a year.

“There are some really fun moments, but there are also some serious moments in our outreach games because we’re talking about death by suicide. It’s the third leading cause of death for student-athletes in the NCAA, and at first we were a bit hesitant to talk about it but you have to talk about it because it affects everyone especially in our 18-24 age group.. we are so proud when we won because it is all of our hard work in a game to not only help this team of people talk about mental health, but also the community to see this platform that student-athletes need to bring everywhere,” Osborne says.

This year, UMD’s Green Bandana Project was so successful that it earned them the Division II Achievement Award, which is considered one of the NCAA’s most prestigious awards.

“It’s like winning a national championship for your athletic department, and that kind of a blow to me because the work of our whole campaign and every UMD team has supported us, and that’s what’s so amazing. about this project is that each team ran a mental health awareness game, they were committed to removing stigma, raising awareness, and that’s what makes it so special,” Thomas said.

For winning the award, the UMD Student-Athlete Advisory Committee received $2,500 to fund community engagement initiatives or events that will help the Green Bandana Project for years to come.

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