York College Students Help to Combat Mental Health Struggles through Morgan’s Message
Written by: Khamelia Henderson '23
Brianna “Bri” Mckeown ’25 is a Nursing student and Morgan Joyce ’25 is a Psychology major with a minor in Neuroscience at York College of Pennsylvania. Both are student-athletes; Bri plays softball and Morgan plays soccer, and they also serve as co-presidents for the York College chapter of Morgan’s Message.
Morgan’s Message was established to honor Morgan Rodgers, a 22-year-old Duke University women’s lacrosse player who took her own life on July 11, 2019. Rodgers was described as a driven athlete, gifted artist, and loyal daughter, sister, and friend. Although she experienced anxiety during her senior year of high school, Rodgers received the support and help she needed to accept an offer from Duke University to become a Blue Devil and play collegiate-level lacrosse. At Duke, Rodgers injured her knee during her 2017 sophomore year and had to undergo surgery and rehabilitation for 12 months. During this period, she suffered in silence as her anxiety resurfaced and depression overwhelmed her, resulting in her life being cut short.
Bri first heard about Morgan’s Message when Lauren Bernett, a James Madison University women’s softball star, took her own life during the summer of 2022. Bri noticed the trend in student-athletes struggling with mental health and she researched resources, which led her to Morgan’s Message.
Morgan Joyce found the organization through social media by following other organizations working to end mental health stigma.
“I really wanted to join Morgan’s Message after the tragic passing of Katie Meyer, the Stanford women’s soccer goalkeeper,” she explains.
Morgan was inspired by Meyer’s advocacy for mental health even while she was battling with her own issues. Meyer lost her fight on March 1, 2022. This tragedy pushed Morgan to get involved, because it happened in her own community of soccer.
Bri’s inspiration sprouted from her desire to educate fellow student-athletes about the importance of prioritizing mental and physical health.
“Athletes go to the trainer for physical problems, so why shouldn’t we talk to someone about mental health issues?” she asks. “I know many student-athletes, including myself, who have had mental health problems in the past.”
Serving the York College Community
As co-presidents, Morgan and Bri plan fundraisers and dedication games to raise awareness about the club, invite guest speakers to their chapter to learn about new topics to discuss in meetings, and work alongside Women’s Lacrosse Coach and the chapter’s advisor, Jen Muston, to get in touch with other coaches and keep updated on club events.
Both students believe that there is a particular need for Morgan’s Message at York, because the College doesn’t have mental health programs specific to student-athletes. Athletes need a comfortable place to discuss their experiences and feel a sense of community among fellow athletes.
“I think that every school should have a sports psychologist or sports therapist because athletes’ mental health needs to be handled differently,” Bri explains. “Since York College doesn’t have these services, we thought that it would be beneficial to have a group of people to speak with who understand the struggles that student-athletes face every day.”
Eleanor Beck ‘25 is an Intelligence Analysis major, a sophomore tennis player, and the Vice President of the York College chapter of Morgan’s Message.
“I think most athletes open up to their teammates first. It’s easier to lean on someone in the same boat and it makes discussions and consulting easier to do,” she adds.
Morgan’s Message provides student-athletes with information about mental health and resources on how to manage their mental health, where and how to seek help, and other coping mechanisms. Many student-athletes feel more comfortable speaking to other student-athletes about their mental health struggles because fellow athletes have similar stressors regarding balancing sports, school, and life.
“I would rather speak to other student-athletes when I am struggling than someone who may not understand my stresses,” Bri argues.
Eleanor says, “Taking mental health days is so important. If anyone is ever stressed, there are always resources and communities available for you, whether you are a student-athlete or not.”