Note from the editors: The following story contains issues related to mental health and suicide.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 800-273-8255.
In July 2019, Morgan Rodgers, a women’s lacrosse player at Duke University, lost her battle to depression at the age of 22.
Rodgers’ struggles with mental health are shared by athletes across the country.
According to the NCAA Student-Athlete Well-Being Study from fall 2021, 78% of male athletes and 94% of female athletes felt overwhelmed. In addition, 24% of male athletes and 36% of female athletes reported feeling so depressed it was difficult to function.
Shortly after Rodgers’ death, her friends and family started an organization called Morgan’s Message. The organization has expanded to include many other athletes who share a goal of raising awareness about mental health for athletes.
The organization’s vision is “to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health within the student-athlete community and equalize the treatment of physical and mental health in athletics. We aim to expand the dialogue on mental health by normalizing conversations, empowering those who suffer in silence, and supporting those who feel alone.”
The Lehigh women’s lacrosse team is taking a first step in spreading awareness by playing a fall-ball mental health awareness game in honor of Rodgers on Oct. 14 against Drexel at Frank Banko Field on Goodman Campus.
Women’s lacrosse sophomore Angelina Pino said she decided to become an ambassador for Morgan’s Message in August 2022.
“As a student athlete you have an image that you want to uphold, and it’s being strong and tough, but a lot of people don’t realize that they don’t have to be strong and tough,” Pino said. “As an ambassador you can show people that it’s OK to talk about mental health and it’s OK to not be OK.”
Pino said she discovered Morgan’s Message through social media and followed them on Instagram. She applied to become an ambassador for Lehigh a year later.
Pino said, as an ambassador, she hopes to hold meetings throughout the semester and work with different teams and groups to help them learn more about Morgan’s Message.
In preparing for the upcoming game, senior Gabby Schneider said the team has been having open conversations about mental health and what it means to them.
“I think that mental health means being the best teammate and friend and family member that I can,” Schneider said. “Making sure that I’m mentally in that space where I could provide my friendship and the duties that I have as a teammate, as a family member to the people that I care about.”
Schneider said each team member made a video describing what mental health means to them and then split off into small groups to discuss this question further.
Senior Katia Carnevale said talking about mental health is not something anyone should be ashamed of.
“It’s kind of just part of our culture now, to make sure that we are holding ourselves to a high standard of really caring for each other,” Carnevale said.
Looking ahead, Schneider said this game will serve as a platform for other programs within the Lehigh community to hear and spread awareness surrounding mental well-being.
“I’m super excited that we’re going to hopefully bring a good turnout to the game and make more people aware of this issue and the importance of not only athletes’ mental health, but just everyone’s mental health in general,” Schneider said.