Morgan’s Message offers student-athletes a ‘safe space’ to ‘share their stories’ about mental health

By AJ Apel

MORGAN’S Message is a nonprofit organization dedicated to spreading awareness about student-athlete mental health. The York College chapter of Morgans Message was founded by Morgan Joyce and Bri Mckeown in the fall of 2022 after it was founded nationally two years before that.

“The purpose of Morgan’s message is to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health within the student- athlete community and equalize the treatment of physical and mental health in athletics,” Joyce said. Athlete mental health has been brought into the news in recent years when superstar athletes such as swimmer Michael Phelps and tennis players Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams opened up to the public about their struggles. 

Morgan’s Message was started in July 2020 in memory of Morgan Rodgers, a Division I lacrosse player at Duke University. Rodgers had struggled with her mental health in high school and received help. In college, she got injured and her mental health suffered because of it. Unfortunately, she lost her battle and committed suicide at the age of 22.

Her family and friends started Morgan’s Message in her honor, helping thousands of student-athletes across the nation realize that mental health issues are normal and that it is OK to reach out and get help. Many athletes feel like they are alone in their battle with mental health.

Said Mckeown on why this presence is important on our campus: “Morgan’s Message is important to have at YCP because of the large student-athlete population who may not have realized that they are not alone in their struggles with mental health. This organization is a safe space for student-athletes to share their stories.” 

This organization now gives access to a much-needed resource on our campus for these athletes who are under more pressure than meets the eye, from school to social lives to being on the field. Having an outlet when you feel lost or alone is of utmost importance now more than ever.

The York College chapter of Morgan’s Message was founded by Morgan Joyce, left, and Bri Mckeown in the fall of 2022 and after it was founded nationally two years before that.

Explained Mckeown: “Some benefits of bringing mental health awareness for student-athletes include improving one another’s mental health by realizing that we are not alone in our struggles. Hearing the stories of other athletes allows students to find out how they dealt with them healthily and how an athlete can bounce back from an injury or an illness or whatever they are struggling with.”

The two founders of the York College chapter are both student-athletes. Joyce is a sophomore on the women’s soccer team and Mckeown is a sophomore on the softball team. They were both asked why they got involved with Morgan’s Message.

Said Mckeown, “I became involved with Morgan’s Message last year because I had heard of the death of Lauren Bernett (a James Madison University softball player). She took her own life because she could not live with the struggles of her mental health. At that point I was also struggling with mental health since I could not be with my team for the rest of the season due to an illness that I was hospitalized for. I wanted to bring myself out of that negative space and do something positive for others.”

McKeown said that’s when she found out about Morgan’s Message.

“I thought that this organization was a great idea and I wanted to help others in their struggle,” she said. “There have been many student-athlete suicides over the past few years and everyone needs something to turn to, even if that is just another group of athletes in their community who may feel the same way.”

Joyce told a similar story.

 “I became involved with Morgan’s Message last spring when Katie Meyer, a goalkeeper at Stanford University, committed suicide. This really impacted me greater than I thought it would because this was a tragedy within my specific community within athletics. After the passing of Katie Meyer, I really wanted to do something to impact my community in a positive way and I had been following Morgan’s Message for a while so I thought that was one way to get involved.”

The mental health of athletes is not an issue that experts say will go away anytime soon, and organizations like this help athletes know that they are not alone and will always have a place for advice and help.

Athletes suffering from mental health issues are able to talk to fellow athletes and ambassadors inside the Morgan’s Message organization. They can be contacted through your school’s ambassadors or members of the club at your school.

AJ Apel is a sophomore Sport Media Major and a member of the men’s lacrosse team.

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