Student Athletes Start Organization ‘Morgans Message’ to Promote Mental Health

By: Caroline Nordheim

“How are you doing?”

That golden question comes up every session. Every week, she dreads her check-ins with the University of Duke sports therapist, but because she was injured, she has to go. However, she knows what to say to check the boxes to be cleared. She would much rather be on the field competing than sitting in that office pretending everything is ok. 

She paints a smile across her face and answers the question.

“I’m doing great,” she lies. 

Morgan Rodgers doesn’t want to be viewed as someone who needs help or is weak. So instead of talking about why she hasn’t felt like herself lately, she continues to mask her emotions with cheerful replies rather than taking the help placed in a chair across the table. 

Morgan Rodgers is no longer with us. 

Through people’s eyes, they saw a girl known by everyone as happy and uplifting. They saw a girl who accomplished her high school goal of committing to compete in Division I Women’s Lacrosse at Duke University in 2014. They saw a girl who spent 12 months determined to return to the field after injuring her knee in January 2017 and undergoing surgery. 

What they didn’t see was what Morgan Rodgers chose to hide from everyone; she was struggling.

The routine of running across a field changed to repping physical therapy exercises. The most demanding hours of her day, typically spent in the comfort of the team, she now had to do alone. Her inability to practice with her team made her feel isolated and helpless. 

Morgan’s family noticed a change in her character, but when she quit lacrosse and joined the club team they thought she was getting better. 

Morgan ended her life in July 2019 at the age of 22. 

The realization that Morgan chose not to talk to even her family about what she was going through is what inspired the Rodgers family- Dona (mom), Aberle (twin sister), Kurt (dad), Austin (brother), and Cash (pup) – to start the organization, Morgan’s Message.  

According to the nonprofit organization website,, “Morgan’s Message strives 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.”

In her senior year at the University of Tampa, Juliette Vick is the president of Morgan’s Message at Tampa and the ambassador from the rowing team. She proposed Morgan’s Message Education Program to the University’s campus in the spring of 2022. 

“One of my friends from high school was an ambassador at her school,” said Vick. “I saw her always posting about it on social media, so I looked into it more, and then I reached out to them.”

Through the program, Morgan’s Messengers work alongside student-athlete ambassadors to provide resources and skills needed to reach students across campus and the local community.

When Vick brought the program to the school, she started reaching out to the other student-athletes to have ambassadors in other sports, which is how she found Vice President Matthew Beddow, the lacrosse team ambassador. 

“I’m hoping to reach out to [my teammates] and make sure that I know there are resources for them,” Beddow said. “It’s harder for men with mental health issues to reach out for help. So I definitely want to find a way to get that message across to all my teammates.”

Beddow has seen the stigma surrounding mental health affect his teammates and makes an effort to communicate with his coach to reach out to his players. 

“I meet with my coach weekly, and he’s been super responsive about [Morgan’s Message] and is totally open to it,” said Beddow. “I’ll say he’s more like a cutthroat guy on the field, but off the field, he’s very warm and feels kind of like a father figure, and he’s very understanding with everything we go through.”

The program officially kicked off this fall when it hosted its first event, Say It Brave, on Oct. 5. The events had over 100 student-athletes attend to hear Morgan’s Message and hopefully encourage athletes to seek help if they need it. 

“I do think seeing how many people showed up was really meaningful,” said Vick. “I think it’s trying to get people to talk about it. The whole goal of Morgan’s Message is to end this stigma surrounding mental health, and that’s what we’re trying to do by getting people to talk about it more, especially on teams like men’s lacrosse.”

“You’ve seen a study that males tend to bottle up things more, and I’ve even noticed that. Sometimes we bottle things more until we explode,” said Beddow. “I remember this one time in high school, I had one of my teammates, one day at practice, start bursting out crying. It’s just so hard to have that male stigma behind it be, ‘Oh, we’re men, we have to bottle up our feelings and act tough,’ but in the end, it’s ok not to be ok.” 

Morgan’s Message Education Program’s goal is to start the school year by having these conversations and reaching out to student-athletes early, letting them know they are not alone and there are resources. 

“Our main goal is to prevent something like Morgan from happening,” said Vick. “We’re saving lives, is what I like to think.”


24/7 Crisis Hotline: 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline

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Call or text 988 or chat Veterans, press 1 when calling.

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