By Kelly Kennedy Social Media Editor
On Oct. 8, the women’s soccer team won 1-0 against Iona at Gaelic Park in a dedication game for Morgan’s Message, a foundation supporting mental health for college athletes. The foundation is named after Morgan Rodgers, a Duke student athlete who tragically lost her life to suicide.
“Our game was dedicated to Morgan Rogers, a Duke lacrosse player who unfortunately lost her battle to mental health to suicide in 2019. Her family and friends started this organization to give student athletes a chance to tell their story and support each other,” said Nicolette Caneda, a sophomore at Manhattan and a Morgan’s Message ambassador for the women’s soccer team.
This season, the women’s soccer players are stepping up to become ambassadors for the foundation and raise money to support the cause, spearheaded by their two ambassadors, Caneda and Sami Dericco. There are also ambassadors on the cross country team and the women’s lacrosse and volleyball teams.
“We’ve begun meeting as ambassadors, and have had a few meetings so far this year to get the conversation started. We really want to build this up and have [mental health] be something we all feel comfortable talking about,” said Dericco.
As an ambassador, Caneda has gone above and beyond advocating for mental health. She recently spoke on the Morgan’s Message podcast, and Sept. 28 spoke on a panel for This Is My Brave, a similar organization supporting mental health and suicide prevention.
“I’m just going to try to get my story out as much as possible because it’s comforting to know that other people are going through the same things that you are,” Caneda said. “I didn’t have that, and I started to think that was the problem. So for me, it’s important to show people that look, this is someone else who’s just like you struggling through the same things, it goes a long way.”
Mental health is an issue that many college athletes struggle with, and Caneda and her ambassadors are looking to give their support and spread awareness.
“I’ve seen a lot of teammates of mine quit the sport because of mental health struggles and I just never want to see someone fall out of love with the game in that way again,” Caneda said. “I just want to prevent it as much as possible and pay whatever I can forward to help whoever I can.”
Kelly Conheeney, assistant coach of the women’s soccer team, has seen many of her players struggle with mental health throughout the years.
“It’s a huge topic nowadays. I think there’s a lot of deaths by suicide now in the athlete community, more than there ever has been. And, you know, the big question is, ‘Why is this happening?’,” Conheeney said. “Sometimes you don’t know somebody’s suffering, and I think athletes hide things really well. They’re really good at hiding pain and just pushing through things. It’s important for us to let the girls know that we’re always here for them first as humans and we don’t ever want to push them past their mental limit.”
Last week, the soccer team raised over $1000, which will be donated to Morgan’s Message in their name. They hope to continue spreading awareness and support the cause both on and off the field.
“Lean on people you trust and love, and it’s okay to not be able to do everything alone,” said Caneda, offering words of advice. “You get to play your sport, you don’t have to play it. So continue loving it as much as you can, if you don’t love it, it’s not worth it. You’re human before you’re a player.”