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Fenwick field hockey star Elwell helps spread Morgan's Message of mental health for student-athletes
Salem News - 11/3/2022
Nov. 3—Zoe Elwell is passionate.
Passionate about being a student at Bishop Fenwick. Passionate about being a senior midfielder and captain of the Crusaders' tournament-bound field hockey team. Passionate about wearing costumes to football games to show her school spirit — she's been, for various theme nights, a construction worker, a banana, and Jesus. She even got her friends to wear pickle costumes with her to a Billie Ellish concert last December.
The 17-year-old Elwell is also passionate about mental health as it pertains to student-athletes. That's why she's become an ambassador for Morgan's Message, a national program that works to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health in the student-athlete community.
"It's an entirely overlooked aspect of a student-athlete's life, so Morgan's Message is to reduce and change that," said Elwell, who lives in Manchester. "The change is so necessary.
"For our chapter at Fenwick, our main goal is to normalize the conversations and support everyone who could feel alone. We don't want people suffering in silence."
Spreading the message
Morgan Rodgers was a bright student, full of energy and love, and a highly recruited women's lacrosse player who landed at Duke University. But a knee injury prior to the start of her sophomore year affected her not only physically but mentally, and she was besieged with feelings of anxiety and depression. Tragically, she took her own life in July 2019. The program that now honors her memory was created shortly afterwards to bring awareness to student-athletes who offer suffer in silence.
When Elwell first found out about the program through a family friend, she immediately knew she had to become a part of it.
"As a student-athlete, I understand the pressures I put on myself, that athletes put on themselves, and others place on me," said the middle child of Michael and Karen Elwell (with brothers, Max and Van). "I went to their website (morgansmessage.org) first and literally read every single page on their website: who they are, what they do, what their staff does, and read about Morgan's story and why her message exists.
"They I heard about their education program and loved it," she continued. "I applied (to become an ambassador) and got it. Now we're starting a chapter at Fenwick, and my teammates have become advocates."
A self-confessed "go-go-go" person, Elwell said that from learning about Morgan's Message, she's understood when to reset, relax, and just ask for a proverbial time out. Recently, she stated, she went to one of her teachers and explained that it had been a stressful week for her and asked for another night to finish a certain assignment. She was grateful when her teacher quickly answered in the affirmative.
"I totally understand what it's like when people say they have five papers to write, three homework assignments, practices or a game every day ... it piles up so quickly and when it hits you, it hits you hard," said Elwell.
Changing perceptions on mental health in the student-athlete community will not happen overnight, Elwell realizes. Getting the message out there that help is available is her current focus, and she's hoping it will expand from there.
Everyone is welcome
Before the school year started, Elwell — who also plays girls' ice hockey at Fenwick — texted her coaches that she was bringing a chapter of Morgan's Message to Fenwick, and to let her know if they'd like to be a part of it. They immediately agreed
Marybeth Mahoney, the Crusaders' field hockey coach, helped set up a game last week against Triton that was dedicated to help spread the word. There was a banner with the symbol of Morgan's Message, a teal butterfly, and words such as 'Taking A Shot at Mental Health' and 'Check In On Your Friends', as well as a table with stickers and snacks, a link to the group's Instagram page, a donation bin, and the new suicide prevention number, 988.
"I think Zoe is bringing an important topic into conversation with Morgan's Message," said Mahoney, whose team will host Dartmouth in the first round of the Division 2 state playoffs Friday at home (3:30 p.m.). "Mental health is often not discussed openly enough, and students need to know they're not alone. This program can help bring awareness and access to resources for any student that may need them."
Ewell spoke with her school counselor, Katie Conroy, about when to hold chapter meetings after school in the Fenwick cafeteria that work with everyone's schedules. There have been good turnouts so far, she noted, saying that members of her field hockey team and a few from the football team have taken part.
She's also talked with Dr. Kellie Tropeano, chair of the Fine Arts Department at Fenwick, to make sure that students in the school's theatre, band, and choir departments are also aware of Morgan's Message and are welcome to join.
"The words 'student-athlete' aren't excluding; we want to include anyone in the school or community. If you have an interest in supporting the goals of mental health, you're more than welcome to join," said Elwell, who said that Clemson University is her first choice for furthering her education (she'd like to study international business and law).
"My goal is to help those people get the help that they need," Elwell added. "Everyone has a rough week now and then, but sometimes you realize you've had a rough month. That's why it's so important to check in with people and not let them suffer. Creating support and having conversations ... that's our goal to help end the stigma and bring awareness."
Contact Phil Stacey
Contact Phil Stacey
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