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Morgan’s Message club advocates for student athletes

Editor’s Note: This story includes mentions of suicide and mental health conditions.

Students at Saint Mary’s are hoping to foster a more open and honest community through one of its new clubs, Morgan’s Message. Founded by the friends and family of Morgan Rodgers, a women’s lacrosse player at Duke University who died by suicide in 2019, the nonprofit organization has spread across various college campuses with the goal of ending the stigma around mental health. 

Erin Dotson, the president of Morgan’s Message and a senior on the Saint Mary’s lacrosse team, said she has spent much of her time trying to grow the club and promoting the importance of engaging in conversations about mental health throughout the campus community.

“After a close friend of mine had passed away from mental health not too long ago, it really pushed me to want to do this,” Dotson said.

Dotson said it is important to let people know that it is “OK not to be OK,” and there are resources out there to help people who are struggling.

Other Saint Mary’s students are also working toward the goal of destigmatizing mental health. Junior Anne Goralczyk serves as a campus captain for The Hidden Opponent, an organization founded by former USC volleyball player Victoria Garrick that provides mental health resources for athletes.

Goralczyk said she is excited about a new campaign Morgan’s Message is about to launch at the College.

“We’re so excited about a campaign where we will choose an athlete from each of the eight teams here at Saint Mary’s,” she said. “We will take a photo of them on their respective fields, then they come up with an impact statement about mental health and we post the photos around campus. It’s an easy way to spread awareness and encourage conversation.”

In addition to the Dotson and Goralczyk’s efforts, several other Saint Mary’s student-athletes have publicly expressed a desire to uplift the campus by informing students of healthy outlets when dealing with mental health struggles. 

One of these students is Izzi Linus, vice president of Morgan’s Message and a Saint Mary’s soccer player.

“I hope to spread awareness around campus and hopefully the tri-campus community,” Linus said. “There have been so many instances in the past year with athletes taking their own lives, and I hope to spread awareness and reach as many people as possible.”

Sophomore Valentina Rubio is the secretary of Morgan’s Message and a member of the lacrosse team. She has also worked to try to make the new club a place where students can feel comfortable expressing their feelings toward peers about their own personal struggles.

“I would like Morgan’s Message to be an option for everyone,” Rubio said. “If you do a sport or don’t do a sport, just to be able to spread more awareness and have it be more student to student rather than student to adult. It’s important so that we can grow in community and confide in one another.”

Contact Moira at mquinn02@saintmarys.edu.

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Saint Mary’s, local community to participate in suicide prevention walk

As a part of Suicide Prevention Month, the South Bend community is passionate to show support through the Out of the Darkness walking event taking place this Saturday. 

The Out of the Darkness walk is a national initiative put out by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. The foundation hosts these walks across the country and this year, St. Joseph County is hosting one of these walks in Howard Park. 

Director of the office for student involvement and advocacy Liz Baumann discussed the importance of this walk and why it can connect well with students from the tri-campus community. 

“Mental health is something that’s important for all of us and especially important for college students. There are numerous statistics out there on how prevalent suicidal ideation is for college students… being able to expand our suicide prevention efforts and education and advocacy is something I’m very passionate about and excited to be doing with this walk,” Baumann said. 

Through promoting this walk, Baumann said she wishes to continue advocacy for mental health awareness within South Bend with help from the tri-campus community. 

“From here I hope this event is kind of a jumping-off point for us with expanding our programming for mental health and suicide prevention. I think this walk is an awesome effort and I’m really excited about it, but I don’t want it to end here,” Baumann said.

Through normalizing mental health struggles, it can become difficult to identify when to reach out for help. There’s a blurred line between what is categorized as a normal obstacle and what is categorized as a tell-tale sign that something is wrong. 

Baumann discussed this idea further, saying she believes it is something to be recognized and to be more of a priority in our day-to-day lives. 

“In normalizing mental health, I also want to help others see the importance of reaching out for help and that although a lot of experiences are normal, it’s normal to feel homesick. It’s normal to be stressed about academics. It’s also not necessarily normal to be having suicidal thoughts,” she said. “And so, helping people recognize the signs in themselves and each other and therefore helping each other and themselves get help is really, really important. “ 

Self-care is incredibly important for students to partake in but as well as being honest with yourself as to what works best for you in times of destressing. 

Baumann discussed further this concept of how not everyone can find relaxation through “traditional methods” such as bubble baths and exercising but rather through their own personal self-care journey. 

“Making sure that you’re honest with yourself about what self-care looks like for you, and making a commitment to carve out time for that, I think is really important, especially with college students,” she said. 

Registration for the event takes place at 9 a.m. and at 10 a.m., then the walk will proceed until 1 p.m. 

Saint Mary’s students can access transportation from the student center at 9:30 a.m. 

Editor’s note: For mental health and wellness resources, view The Observer’s Editorial of numbers to know here.

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Observer Editorial: Numbers to know: Safety and wellness rolodex

Credit: Maggie Klaers
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The Observer’s declassified school survival guide

With another academic year comes the day-to-day stress of being a student on the tri-campus: early morning labs, long hours studying and papers that won’t write themselves. Then, there’s adjustments in dorm life, from having a random roommate to feeling the pressure to go out every weekend.

No matter where you are in your college experience, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with balancing everything you have on your plate. As we come to the end of the second week of the semester, The Observer editorial board has some tips on how to make the most of your time academically, socially and personally. 

Ask for academic assistance

If there’s a particular class you’re struggling with, take up your professor on open office hours. Professors are very approachable, especially when you ask for help early. Going to office hours early in the semester can lead to strong relationships with professors, making it easier for them to help you. Beyond office hours, the Learning Resource Center at Notre Dame provides free tutoring for first-year classes such as accounting, applied math, microeconomics and chemistry. If you’re struggling with an essay prompt, you can talk to a peer tutor at the Writing Centers at Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross. If you want to practice speaking another language, visit Notre Dame’s Center for Study of Language and Culture (CSLC).

Become a Google Calendar guru

We’re not saying that you have to become one of those people who sends their friends calendar invites to hang out, but it definitely helps to use some sort of calendar system in college. Writing down all of your deadlines for the semester in advance is an easy strategy to feel on top of your school work. This can help you plan ahead for weeks when you have three exams and two essays due in the span of a few days. Even for extracurriculars, clubs often plan their events in advance, so it’s useful to have a calendar app notify you of things rather than having to remember it all. (And don’t forget to color code!)

Advocate for mental health 

College can be difficult, and ensuring the stability of your mental health after living through a pandemic is crucial. Notre Dame’s University Counseling Center, Saint Mary’s Health and Counseling Center and Holy Cross counseling services  provide students free access to licensed mental health professionals. If you need a ride off campus to access mental health resources, don’t hesitate to ask an upperclassman or a member of your hall staff. Be aware of your own feelings and check in with your friends — whether they look like they are struggling or not. Remember, taking care of your mind is just as important as taking care of your body. 

Email enthusiastically

College can be an intimidating place when you first arrive. The next four years are full of possibilities —  research, study abroad, extracurriculars, work-study jobs, supplementary majors, honors programs and more. The plethora of options can leave you wondering where to start. When exploring these opportunities, remember that all of these people are either your peers or your teachers, and they would be very open to talking with you about whatever you’re interested in. So email that professor who’s researching the anthropology of hip-hop, get lunch with that senior who spent a summer in Jerusalem and reach out to that leader of a club you’ve been eyeing. College is an amazing time to learn the kind of wacky, joy-inducing things adults pay to learn about later in life.

Don’t sleep on dorm life (but do sleep in general)

Living in dorms can get old pretty quick. To have an enjoyable experience, make the best of the time you spend on campus. Be friendly to your roommate(s). Be courteous of the spaces you share with others. Spend time outside your room (and make the most of the nice weather while you still can) so you can meet people outside your hall. You never know where you will meet your best friends.

Pursue your passions

After attending activity fairs, you’ve probably realized, you don’t have time to join all the clubs you expressed interest in. Be realistic about what you are able to commit yourself to. If you have trouble deciding which listservs to unsubscribe from, think about where you want to see yourself at the end of your time here. To which clubs and activities do you want to devote your time? Try new things, so you can find your passions and stick with them. You can always come back to something else if you realize down the road it becomes a better fit for you! It’s never too late to join different clubs. 

Welcome to the tri-campus community! Let’s make it a great year.