Penn State Alum Co-Founds ‘Morgan’s Message’ In Honor Of Late Friend

Disclaimer: The following includes discussion surrounding suicide and mental health.

“You are not alone.”

When Penn State alum Meaghan Birnie lost one of her best friends, Morgan Rodgers, by suicide in July of 2019, this was one of the many messages that she wished she would’ve conveyed to her.

Mental health is an ever-growing issue in today’s society, and Morgan’s friends and family knew they had to do their part to help student-athletes and aid in dropping the stigma surrounding mental health.

On Morgan’s first birthday after her death, her friends and family came together and formed the idea of “Morgan’s Message” while celebrating the life of Morgan and all of the best things about her.

“We all got together and said, ‘Let’s turn this devastation to action and try to help a few people along the way,'” Birnie, a co-founder of Morgan’s Message, said.

That day, the idea came to life. It originated as a podcast called “The Mental Matchup”, where people can share their stories and have them read out loud as a way to talk about how they were feeling. The show now has 62 episodes and counting.

Birnie quickly realized the impact the podcast had around the country when she received a message from a listener.

“We had a parent who listens to the podcast send us a note and said, ‘I just listened to this episode, and I just drove two hours to my son’s practice in a different state just to give him a hug.'”

The education program soon followed the podcast, and after two years of work and service to this organization, over 1,500 ambassadors can be found across 500 high school and college campuses around the country.

“Morgan’s Message strives to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health within the student-athlete community and equalize the treatment of physical and mental health in athletics,” its website states. “We aim to expand the dialogue on mental health by normalizing conversations, empowering those who suffer in silence, and supporting those who feel alone.”

Birnie was ecstatic with the growth that the program experienced in such a short time.

“Knowing Morgan, she would be absolutely blown away that something after her namesake was changing the lives of people,” Birnie said.

The ambassadors within the organization lead meetings, attend monthly calls, participate in educational workshops, host fundraisers, and more at every individual chapter.

As Morgan’s Message continues to grow, it’s catching the attention of some pretty big names in sports as well. The Kevin Love Fund, founded by Cleveland Cavaliers star Kevin Love, is partnering with Morgan’s Message this fall to create a 15-part curriculum that can help emphasize the importance of social-emotional learning and mental health.

Back in March of 2018, Love detailed his ongoing battle with his mental health in The Players’ Tribune. Later that year, Love founded the Kevin Love Fund with the hopes of inspiring people to live their healthiest lives.

The curriculum made by the Kevin Love Fund will have content contributed by psychologists, musicians, celebrities, meditation gurus, and other professional athletes, as well as Birnie and fellow co-founder Clare Kehoe. This is seen as a huge step for both organizations in their outreach, and it’s expected to continue the growth of both programs.

A new chapter of Morgan’s Message has also made its way to Penn State this semester thanks to women’s lacrosse goalie Ashley Bowan.

Bowan also lost a friend to suicide before her freshman year at Penn State, and it was especially tough on her as she was going through a transitional period in her life.

“I had a really hard time coping through that my freshman year, and it was because I just wanted to know [why],” Bowan said.

She described how there were so many questions surrounding what happened, and she saw Morgan’s Message as an opportunity for people to have those types of questions answered. She was stunned to realize that Penn State did not have a chapter of its own, and she immediately applied to bring it to Happy Valley.

“It’s kind of crazy how big of a university we are and that we aren’t a part of that because we are a part of everything else,” Bowan said.

The chapter will hold its first official event between 6 and 8 p.m. on Wednesday, September 28, in East Halls. The event hopes to inform the Penn State student body of the resources available to them, while also hearing from Morgan’s mother, Dana Rogers.

Bowan also hopes to expand the resources that are currently presented to athletes and prove there is a real need for psychologists, therapists, and mental health professionals.

While Morgan’s Message is mainly focused on the athletic community, the message of the organization still reigns true to every person who might be looking for help.

“I know we are focused on student-athletes, but you start with a niche, and then as the message grows, it hits all different levels,” Birnie said.

If you or anyone you know needs help, please use the suicide hotline at 988. If you are a part of the Penn State community looking for resources, you can make an appointment with CAPS here. Be sure to follow Morgan’s Message’s Instagram page to get updates from the new chapter.

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About the Author

Mara McKeon

Mara is a senior staff writer majoring in English and public relations. She loves all things sports and anything that has peanut butter. You can usually find her obsessing over country music or Penn State wrestling and counting down the days until she gets to see Luke Combs in Beaver Stadium. Feel free to reach her on Twitter @MckeonMara, and for more formal affairs, her email is [email protected].

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