Group educates Temple athletes about mental health – The Temple News

Morgans Message President Natalie Demasi (left) and Vice President Peyton Rieger (right) are fighting to overcome the stigma around athlete mental health. | NEWS FROM THE TEMPLE / COUNT KUFEN

September 4-10 was National Suicide Prevention Week across the country, allowing organizations to speak out about the challenges people with mental illness face. An organization at Temple University was able to use the week to spread positive mental health awareness messages for student athletes at Temple Athletics.

Morgan’s Message is a non-profit organization that provides resources and expertise for people struggling with mental health issues. Temple University opened its own chapter in April 2022, educating the student-athlete community on campus about everyday mental stressors, like balancing academics and sports.

The program was introduced to Temple by Morgan’s Message President at Temple University, Natalie Demasi, who created the partnership with Morgan’s Message after contacting them directly, and currently sits on the board alongside six other athletes. .

“I have representatives from every team on the board,” said Demasi, a second-year women’s soccer player. “People who are really passionate about it on their team, they’re the ones responsible for spreading the word.”

Morgan’s Message currently has 674 high school and college campuses representing their organization through peer-to-peer ambassador work at each school.

Reese Henderson, the organization’s treasurer, championed mental health awareness by sharing promotional posts on social media. When Demasi offered her to join the board, she jumped at the chance.

“I was pretty public about my own struggles already,” said Henderson, a sophomore women’s soccer player. “I was passionate about mental health before, so when Nat asked to join this club, I said ‘yes, of course’.”

Morgan’s Message provides a safe space for student-athletes to express their personal struggles with mental health, as well as to unite the various Temple teams in the common goal of raising awareness of the issue.

Meetings at various locations around the main campus and constant outreach on Instagram have seen the club grow to more than 50 people since April. Athletes also receive additional information about Temple’s wellness resources, and Edward Darrah, Temple Athletics Mental Health Counseling Director, is the chapter’s adult advisor.

While every athlete has their own mental journey, Morgan’s post at Temple University helped find common ground on issues that all student-athletes face.

“I think athletes relate in different ways,” Henderson said. “We all go to training, we all lift and we do all these other things, but we don’t all talk about mental health, and I want that to be accessible when someone wants to do it.”

Morgan’s Message has bi-weekly meetings where they invite athletes from each team to attend. While conversations about mental health can’t be forced, the board hopes more student-athletes will eventually tell their stories, Demasi said.

Whether it’s the pressure to succeed on the field, in the weight room, in the classroom, on social media, or even at home, student-athletes face a constant battle with their own identity. and their emotional balance, Henderson said.

“I just want everyone to make sure they know they’re not alone,” Demasi said. “Before I knew my resources, I felt so alone, I wanted to make sure everyone knew that we have resources like TUWell and a group of athletes who want to make sure everyone is okay.”

The mental health of male athletes is a hyper-stigmatized topic that the group also focuses on. Male student-athletes have not attended meetings as often as female athletes, but they are now more exposed to the positive aspects of the group.

With Trey Blair as a board member, Morgan’s Message is already taking a step in the right direction by supporting all athletes, not just women.

Blair believes that as a black football player, he can play a strong role in promoting the club to a newer demographic on campus. By understanding the aspects of mental health that men face on a daily basis, his message could begin to attract more male student-athletes to meetings.

“As a male athlete, you’re kind of expected to be tough and go about your business a certain way,” said Blair, a freshman soccer player in the red shirt. “But for me, what’s hard is being brave enough to talk about your personal issues.”

While the stigma surrounding athlete mental health is still an issue, Temple athletes like Demasi, Henderson and Blair hope to accelerate mental support through Morgan’s Message to Temple University, Blair said.

“With competition at this high level, it comes with changes in starting lineups and a lot of people struggle with the anxiety of wanting to be a starter,” Demasi said. “A lot of us also have nutrition and body image issues, but we just want everyone to be educated on how to de-stress.”

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Mental health is stigmatized on college campuses across the country, but it’s especially difficult for student-athletes to speak out. The rigor of their respective sports has created a dilemma where athletes often put their mental well-being on hold in order to focus on their craft.

Demasi has overcome her own mental health battles over the past three years, but has used a consistent approach to her emotional well-being through therapy and self-care techniques like meditation and journaling that empower her. to help others today, Demasi said.

The organization preaches the idea that sharing your story is a step in the journey to stability. Mental Illness Awareness Week runs from Oct. 3 to Oct. 9, and Morgan’s Message hopes to amp up its efforts by this week by handing out wristbands and a consistent social media posting schedule.

The board includes a vice president, treasurer, secretary and two co-ordinators with a president directing the entire operation, enabling constant communication with the athletes, which has already enabled Morgan’s Message at Temple to do some progress.

This area of ​​Morgan’s message hasn’t seen the same results as with female athletes, but it’s something they’re looking to improve on.

“We make a mistake and think ‘This is where we belong’, but failure is part of the process.”

“I’m going to make a mistake and I’m going to blame myself for that mistake,” Demasi said. “I think other people are struggling with that as well.”

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