Morgan’s Message: mental health matters


Photo provided by Allison Boyd.

Colo presents her slideshow for her January meeting.

Allison Boyd, Sports Editor

  Mental health awareness has increased significantly over the past few years as organizations are formed to end mental health stigma. Morgan’s Message (MM) is one of these organizations that focuses explicitly on student-athletes. The organization was founded in honor of Morgan Rodgers, a Division I lacrosse player at Duke University, who died by suicide in July 2019. Her mom started MM to end the stigma around mental health in sports, which she believed contributed to her daughter’s death. At RJ Reynolds High School, MM serves as a safe space for students and athletes to learn more about mental health. Recently, senior Mary Catherine Colo began a chapter of MM at RJR after opening up about her struggles.

    “I am a natural athlete, and due to that fact, I have always played sports,” Colo said. “I love competing, winning, and the opportunity to make life-long relationships with my teammates. I had the opportunity to play lacrosse in college, but the stress of the recruiting process continued to beat me down until I physically could not play the sport I loved. I took a break during my junior lacrosse season after suffering from an anxiety attack in the middle of a game. That was the first time I had ever not played a portion of a lacrosse season. I took a much-needed step back from the sport, and I was able to reach a point where I could return.”

    This experience served as the inspiration for her to begin MM to help provide support for others that may have similar feelings. 

    “After talking to some of my teammates and coaches, I realized that other people felt this way, that I wasn’t the only one that had serious and complex emotions regarding the sport,” Colo said. “At a tournament last summer, sponsored by a variety of mental health organizations, I had the opportunity to talk to Morgan’s mom. Morgan’s story resonated with me, and I felt that starting a MM program was exactly what I needed to do to prevent my friends and teammates from ever feeling the way I did.”

    The first meeting was held in December of 2022 and was very successful. Participants were able to learn about their brains’ stress response and management techniques as well as view a presentation from the MM staff. In the future, Colo hopes to reach as many sports as possible at RJR and spread more awareness about mental health.

    “While MM is an athlete-based organization, I invite anyone who wants to participate,” Colo said. “The club is a safe space, and anyone is welcome. I hope this program continues years after I am gone. As many people know and have experienced, the world is a challenging place, and this program serves as a reminder that we will all be okay. I do not want anyone to be in the position I was in my junior year, so my hope is that the community will grow over time and provide emotional support for those who need it.”

    Overall, Colo believes it’s essential for people to understand the underlying message around student athletes’ mental health.

    “I think it is important to recognize that athletes have a lot on their shoulders,” Colo said. “Personally, I felt like the outcome of the game solely relied on my performance, which is a huge weight to carry when you play. I have had teachers, coaches, and even parents dismiss my feelings, which only made the feelings stronger. My message to the student-athletes of RJR is that your feelings are valid! No one should ever dismiss your feelings. You belong, you are worthy, you are strong, and you are brave. Do not let anyone take that from you.”


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