The Spartans will play for Morgan’s Message on Friday, May 20 at Alumni Stadium
BY BRENNA KHIEV, STAFF WRITER
*Trigger Warning: this post contains content about suicide.
The Sanford Girl’s Lacrosse team will host a dedication game for Morgan’s Message on Friday, May 20 at Alumni Stadium in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month (May). Varsity will play first at 4:30 p.m. with Junior Varsity to follow at 6 p.m.
Morgan’s Message is an organization that “strives to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health within the student-athlete community and equalize the treatment of physical and mental health in athletics”, according to their website.
Morgan Rodgers was a Duke lacrosse player who struggled with anxiety and depression. She died by suicide in July of 2019 at the age of 22. To learn more about Morgan’s story, click here.
Kelly Foley, in her second year as head coach of the girls lacrosse team, suggested the team should choose a cause to dedicate a game to this season.
“When I played in college, we had a teammate who died by suicide. After that, my team chose one game each season to dedicate or raise awareness to something important to all of us,” said Foley. “I wanted to carry that tradition to the team here in Sanford and gave the girls a few ideas and options for organizations we might want to recognize.”
Foley said her team ultimately chose Morgan’s Message, inspired by the mental health platform it creates for athletes.
Senior Captain Elaina Hanselmann shares, “We decided as a team this year to dedicate one game to Morgan’s Message, and I think it’s so important that as a program and school we open the dialogue around mental health and make sure our teammates know we support them.”
“We aim to expand the dialogue on mental health by normalizing conversations, empowering those who suffer in silence, and supporting those who feel alone.”Morgan’s Message
Foley wishes there was more awareness and support for mental health when she was a student-athlete, and while it has increased, there is still much work to be done.
“Whether in college or high school, there is a certain amount of pressure athletes face with performance, with grades, their futures… It can be a lot to carry and I think many student-athletes struggle silently. That should never be the case.”
Foley spoke of her own challenges concluding her collegiate athletic career, noting that once being an athlete was no longer an active part of her identity, she struggled with finding out who she was, or what came next in life without playing sports.
“I want my players to feel valued as so much more than athletes, and if they are struggling – even if unrelated to sports – we need to become more comfortable with talking about what we are battling mentally. There are so many pressures teenagers face and it’s important to ask for help and realize that it doesn’t make them weak. It makes them human.”
The team has been posting content surrounding mental health to their program’s Instagram page all month long to continue trying to spread awareness.
“Morgan’s Message is really important to me as many friends and family I know struggle with mental health,” said Hanselmann. “Spreading awareness and having this conversation on our team has been really impactful.”
“As athletes, I think it’s really important to have open conversations about mental health and Morgan’s Message has given us this opportunity to do so,” adds Hanselmann.
The team will be wearing Morgan’s Message shirts to school on Friday and warming up in them on game day. The shirts display the Morgan’s Message logo, which includes the semicolon1 noting the team is “taking a shot at mental health”.
Photos in the slideshow below are from Carly T. Photography:
To donate to Morgan’s Message, you can go to morgansmessage.org/donate.
If you or someone you know struggles with suicidal thoughts, reach out to a trained professional for help. Head to afsp.org or:
National Alliance on Mental Illness: 1-800-950-6264
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741
1 The semicolon is used as a message of affirmation and solidarity against suicide, depression, addiction, and other mental health challenges. It is a metaphor for suicide prevention – instead of ending a sentence, a writer can use a semicolon to continue on, and so too can an individual choose not to end his or her life, but continue on living. (The Significance of the Semicolon)