Morgan’s Message Group Shedding Light on Student Athletes’ Mental Health

February 26, 2024
Bedford High School sports teams have been dedicating games this year to Morgan’s Message, an organization with the mission to open up conversations about mental health. Staff Image.

Submitted by Tova Yerardi, Bedford High School Morgan’s Message Ambassador

In Bedford, much of the young population participates in athletics. Many athletes play for the town, for our schools, and for club teams that travel near and far. This brings so much joy to kids around Bedford, and gives them an outlet to learn what it means to work hard, be a leader, and devote time and effort to improve on something. 

However, within the life of a student athlete there is a force that often stays hidden and goes unnoticed – mental health. The thoughts that often come to mind when someone says mental health are ones that are negative. The stigma around mental health tends to be that someone has something “wrong” with them, or that they are “too weak” to handle the pressures around them.

For a long time, local athletes had few resources available to them in order to educate themselves on mental health, or express issues with their mental health. There was no one other than the school counselors and maybe a trusted adult, but even they were not a feasible resource for some kids. 

However, last fall with the support of Principal Heather Galante and Athletic Director Keith Mangan, Bedford High School welcomed an organization known as Morgan’s Message into the community to help “Break the Stigma” to open up conversations on and spread awareness of mental health.

Morgan’s Message is a national non-profit organization based out of Gainesville, VA with the goal of “Taking a Shot at Mental Health.” It was created in memory of a woman named Morgan Rodger, who was a college student at Duke University where she played on their Division One lacrosse team. 

During her sophomore year, Morgan suffered a season-ending knee injury that launched her into an unhealthy mental state. After battling her mental health struggles for many months, Morgan died by suicide on July 11, 2019. She was only 22 years old. 

Following her death, Morgan’s mother and father, Dona and Kurt Rodgers, came together with many of Morgan’s closest friends and teammates to create this organization with the goal of amplifying resources, opening dialogue, and empowering people to advocate for themselves and others – all with the goal of breaking the stigma and equalizing the treatment of mental health to physical health. 

So far this year, student-athletes from various Bedford High School teams have dedicated games to this cause in order to further spread awareness around the town. These programs include boys’ and girls’ soccer, field hockey, volleyball, boys’ and girls’ basketball, and boys’ and girls’ hockey. 

At these games, student ambassadors host a small booth with bracelets and stickers that help give a physical form of awareness to attendees. Also, a student ambassador makes a short speech prior to the start of games to help amplify this message to both teams and to spectators in attendance. 

In addition to raising awareness at games, a whopping 83 students have joined the local mission and signed up to participate in Bedford’s Morgan’s Message club. 

Morgan’s Message in Bedford hosts monthly meetings to talk about different mental health topics to help educate the members. With this information, members sign up to assist with events, and to be liaisons to the community who carry the message. 

Bedford’s Morgan’s Message also welcomed Brandon Saho from “The Mental Game” podcast as a speaker at BHS in late January. Saho is a strong voice who advocates for the effectiveness of speaking up about personal struggles and finding the treatment that best suits a person’s situation. Since then, the BHS Morgan’s Message has finished the winter dedication game season and is gearing up for the spring season. 

Over the next few years and into the future, Bedford’s Morgan’s Message hopes to create a safe and healthy space where mental health is taken seriously and is accepted town-wide. It will take time and education for the stigma to shift, but with the help of Morgan’s Message, this group at BHS hopes to shift the perspective and change the dialogue. 

Learn more about Morgan’s Message at https://www.morgansmessage.org.

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