Viterbo University launches project to combat mental illness

Published: Mar. 11, 2021 at 6:57 PM CST
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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WEAU) - The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t been easy for those with mental illness. However, some Coulee Region students are looking to help those struggling find the help they need.

Viterbo Psychology Club Vice President Kayla Kaczorowski knows the past year has been hard for many.

“I think during the pandemic, there’s been a severe increase in mental illness due to isolation from not being able to see family members, friends, things like that,” said Kaczorowski.

After seeing an awareness project with green bandanas in Madison, Kaczorowski decided to bring that same idea to her fellow club members.

“In November, we were trying to brainstorm what Psych club could do this year,” said Kaitlin Babcock, President of the Viterbo Psychology Club. “[Kaczorowski] brought up, UW-Madison does this Green Bandana project, maybe that’s something we could look into.”

With that, the club reached out to the La Crosse Police Department and La Crosse’s National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) chapter to form a community partnership.

“It’s a difficult situation in our society, and people experiencing mental illness often times don’t know who to go to for help,” said Chief Shawn Kudron with the La Crosse Police Department. Kudron is also a board member for NAMI La Crosse Vernon.

“Students can wear the green bandana on their book bag, or on their bags in general,” Babcock said. “They wear them around campus, and that signifies that they’re a safe person to talk to.”

Each participant will receive a short training to see what to look out for.

“They may not be as involved in, say a club, a sport or one of their classes,” said Kaczorowski.

From there, they can connect them with the resources they need.

“I know their broader goal is to really be able to have this work on Viterbo’s campus and also reach out to the other college campuses here in La Crosse,” Kudron said.

“We would love to make it a community-wide project, so that everyone in La Crosse can be wearing a green bandana,” said Babcock.

All agree the extra support can make for a stronger community moving ahead in fighting against mental illness.

Since first announcing about the Green Bandana Project on Tuesday, as of Thursday the Viterbo Psychology Club has already had five students on campus show interest.

The project is currently open primarily to Viterbo students, but hope to also reach out to the community with time.

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