Morgan’s Message: Student-athletes have feelings too


Credit: Courtesy of Morgan's Message

WSPN’s Deirdre Brown discusses mental health help for Student Athletes.

Deirdre Brown

Katie Meyer, Robert Martin, Lauren Bernett and Morgan Rodgers. All names with a similar story that ends in heartbreak. For these four athletes and countless others with the same tragic tale, one thing seems to ring true throughout: no one knew they were struggling.

As an athlete, it’s scary to think that this is the path my life may be leading to. It’s also scary to think this is where my friends’ lives are leading to. In the past three years, I’ve experienced countless emotions: fear, confusion, helplessness, as I’ve watched my friends struggle with their mental health through sports. Oftentimes, the common denominator in their struggles is their self-worth within their sport.

In July of 2019, the Duke University community was sorrowed by the suicide death of lacrosse player Morgan Rodgers at the age of 22. Her family and friends turned their “devastation into action” by creating Morgan’s Message: a platform to enforce mental health help for athletes around the country.

A lot of times, athletes can feel like there’s no one to explain how you feel when you don’t perform well. This is often why they choose to suffer in silence. As a three-sport athlete, I am deeply immersed in the mental health struggles of high school athletes. Specifically, while going through the recruiting process, I had a very hard time, with no one to talk to about how I felt. I have watched as family and friends struggle with their health, while simultaneously pushing themselves past their limits within their sports.

After my experiences, I decided to join Morgan’s Message as an ambassador because I wanted to create a space where I can help athletes feel like they have a place to go when they are struggling. As someone who has also struggled with their mental and physical health throughout sports, I know how strenuous it can be in someone’s life when there is nowhere to go and no one to talk to. Sometimes it feels like there’s no one who understands what you are going through. My goal of joining Morgan’s Message is to show athletes that we are all going through very similar struggles and that we can truly help each other by creating a supportive environment within our community.

Now, I understand that this type of pain can feel unexplainable to others. As I’ve navigated throughout my career as a student-athlete, there have been countless times where I let my emotions build up to the point where I would just break. Since I repressed all of my emotions and told no one, it made recovering from them that much harder. Often I would find myself turning in work late, or giving less effort during class. I was simply showing up to school, but I couldn’t find the strength to apply myself to my classes. I would start pushing my friends away and eventually, all the school work I had missed started to pile up. The stress bubble just grew, as I struggled to just get up everyday and show up to school.

Morgan’s Message is a chance for us to break this habit within ourselves. Even if an athlete doesn’t feel comfortable sharing their stories of struggling, listening to others talk through their struggles can be beneficial for everyone around them.

Beyond Morgan’s Message, it’s important for others to understand how athletes struggle and how many suffer in silence. Mentally, sports can be one of the toughest things students endure aside from school work. Already overwhelmed with school most of the time, athletes are expected to push any emotions aside and show up for their teammates to play their game. Of course, this is a great skill to have. However, I want people to understand that it’s okay to have days where you feel off. If you recognize that your roommate or friend is acting differently, the best thing to do is rally behind them and support them to the extent you can. Cheer them on a little extra during practice. Reassure them that you recognize the effort they are putting in. Usually, that’s all that it takes to change someone’s day.

Other positive solutions to lift up someone’s emotions, outside of supporting each other during practice, is simply checking in on people during the day. Unfortunately, most times, it’s hard to tell when some people are going through a rough time. In today’s society, we have become extremely good at hiding our emotions. That makes recognizing that people are struggling that much harder. Even a quick text just checking in, or a simple gesture of kindness can mean a lot.

For the athletes who recognize that they are struggling and don’t know how to help themselves, do not repress your emotions. I promise, there will always be someone who cares and wants to listen to what you have to say.

This initiative will be a step in the right direction for WHS, to create a place where people are comfortable in reaching out for help, before it’s too late. Morgan’s Message put it best.

“Morgan’s Message is clear: as an athlete, there is no shame in seeking physical healthcare– the same should be true for mental healthcare. In order to close the gap, we must eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health together.” – Morgan’s Message website.