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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Ashland University

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Ashland University

The Collegian

Ashland University introduces a chapter of Morgan’s Message  

A push for mental health resources for student-athletes 
The Eagle women’s lacrosse team raises their sticks in a huddle, showcasing team unity. (Retrieved from AU Athletics with Permission)
This story is related to suicide. If you or someone you know has contemplated suicide, call or text The National Suicide Prevention hotline at 988. 

Ashland University has recognized a chapter of Morgan’s Message to help student-athletes with their mental health.  

Through the efforts of Talia DiLello and Bri Doctor, senior lacrosse players, this student-led group will help create a safe space for athletes to talk about their mental health and reassure them that they are not alone in their struggles.  

“I believed that bringing Morgan’s Message to AU would be extremely beneficial in the aspect that there are not many opportunities to be able to discuss mental health,” Doctor explained. “Outside of on-campus counselors, there is no group truly dedicated to working on mental health. We thought this would be a great opportunity to at least give athletes a safe place to connect and discuss different topics surrounding mental health.” 

What is Morgan’s Message? 

Morgan’s Message was created in honor of Morgan Rodgers, a Duke lacrosse player, who took her life after struggling with a career-ending injury that caused her mental health to rapidly decline.  

Morgan’s mother, Dona, created this program to honor her daughter’s legacy by helping student-athletes around the country navigate with their mental health. 

The mission of this program is to eliminate the stigma, normalize having conversations, encourage peer-to-peer communication, equalize the treatment of physical and mental health and empower those who suffer in silence.  

The Process  

During 2022, DiLello was struggling with her mental health. She grew up in a community where mental health carries a stigma that often means the topic is avoided. 

“[Morgan’s Message] was brought up to me by Bri Doctor and at that time I was struggling with my mental health. She was somebody I was always going to and talking to each other. When she brought this to me, I thought it was super important and I knew I wasn’t the only one struggling,” DiLello said. 

Doctor knew that her teammate was struggling and wanted to make a difference not only in her life but also in the lives of other athletes who are struggling. 

At the end of summer 2022, Doctor approached DiLello with the idea of bringing a chapter of Morgan’s Message to campus.  

The group is widely known within the lacrosse community, and I had been following it since roughly the beginning of 2021,” Doctor explained. “The overall message is the same from group to group: end the stigma behind mental health; however, this group hit closer to home just because Morgan was a part of our sport and was just like us.” 

The pair applied to be members of the chapter in September 2022 but wasn’t an established group on campus until the end of October 2023. 

“The process to get this organization was unfortunately not easy. We spent most of the first year under the name of “Mental Health Committee” within SAAC, as we were told we could not use Morgan’s Message associated with the university until it was a full charter. With that, we could not make any social media accounts, put on our own events, raise any money or be funded,” Doctor said. 

Now that the chapter is officially established on campus, DiLello and Doctor plan to grow the program as much as possible before they graduate in May 2024. 

Plans for the Chapter 

Currently, the group has about 15 to 20 people attending their events. DiLello and Doctor are planning to host events once a month for athletes. 

“We have hosted events for relaxation such as pumpkin painting and bracelet making. Things like that just to get your mind off the stresses of school,” said DiLello. 

They plan to partner with the Rec Center and its Wellness Program. Their intern, Sarah Watson, is known on campus for her advocacy of mental health. Through their partnership, more students will have access to and knowledge of mental health resources.  

“We have a mental health task force that is working with some of the bigger names of the school to address that mental health is something that needs to be addressed,” DiLello said. 

However, one of the biggest goals for this chapter is to host a dedication lacrosse game this spring. 

“A big thing done by other Morgan’s Message chapters at other schools is putting on games for any sports team in honor of Morgan and raising awareness of mental health. We are hoping to have a lacrosse dedication game and will be collaborating with the opposing team,” Doctor explained. 

Importance of Mental Health 

Since Morgan’s passing in 2019, several college athletes have died by suicide.  

“Coaches tell you to have that mindset that it’s nothing and to brush it off. They tend to be insensitive to the athletes themselves. You only see yourself as an athlete and no longer a person but then you have these emotions and try to bury them,” DiLello said. 

DiLello explained that athletes don’t know how to deal with these emotions because they aren’t ‘supposed to have them’ and people refuse to talk with others about these feelings. 

“It is important to educate and discuss how to deal with emotions and feelings, it should not be looked down upon. Ending the stigma is not something that will happen overnight, but a group like this gets us one step closer to reaching our end goal,” Doctor concluded. 

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