Winter 2018

Support and solidarity


What’s in Gabrielle Steinhoff's backpack?  “A lime-green bandana,” says the psychology major and co-president of the U of M’s Bandana Project.

The bandana is brightly colored for a reason—it’s a visual signal that she’s a “safe” person to approach about mental health issues and that she carries resource cards showing how and where to find help in times of crisis. It’s also meant to provide unspoken support. “If someone sees a lime-green bandana on the backpack of a stranger, it’s a sign of quiet solidarity,” Steinhoff, ’19, says.

Last year, after hearing about a similar program at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, she and fellow students reached out to campus student groups and administration and received funding to bring it to the U of M.

Since the program’s launch in September, about 300 students at the U have committed to tying the bandanas to their backpacks and carrying the resource cards. Steinhoff also has been speaking to high schools and colleges that want to bring the project to their campuses.

Steinhoff, who has a part-time work-study job, is grateful for the Thomas and Elizabeth Merner Undergraduate Scholarship, which allows her to focus on academics and the Bandana Project without having to work a second job.

“Someone has expectations and hopes for me and is willing to invest in my education,” she says of receiving the scholarship. “That’s really uplifting.”