Student Works To Remove Mental Health Stigma, Support Struggling Peers


Isabel Shaw, Staff Writer

“It’s OK not to be OK,” said Jill Petersen, the new Morgan’s Message Ambassador at Brookdale.
The 21-year-old homeland security major from Lincroft is part of the Morgan’s Message Education Program. The program trains students to become active leaders for student and student-athlete mental health advocacy on their campus and in their communities.
Morgan’s Message was founded by the family and friends of Morgan Rogers, a student athlete from Duke University who died by suicide on July 11, 2019. She was 22 years old.
Her devastated family searched for answers and on May 27, 2020 – Morgan’s birthday – the family decided to embark on a mission to help other students, especially athletes, who may be suffering in silence, as Morgan had. Morgan’s Message was born.

Morgan’s Message chapters disseminate important mental health education, facilitate discussions related to mental health topics, and highlight guest speakers and experts within the field to fight the stigma surrounding mental health.
Petersen is one of over 1,640 ambassadors nationwide on over 720 high school and college campuses. She joined Morgan’s Message this past March after a friend, Katie Meyer, a star athlete at Stanford University, died by suicide.
“I was reading about my friend Katie’s suicide, and I saw the Morgan’s Message stuff and as I began to read about it. I knew I had to do more. I made up my mind that I wanted to become an ambassador, so I applied. I was accepted and went through their new ambassador training,” Petersen said.
Petersen is no stranger to mental health challenges. Growing up, she was bullied in school. “I was called every name in the book,” she said. “It got so bad the bullies encouraged me to just kill myself. ‘You don’t matter,’ they told me.”
The trauma of those experiences left lasting scars on Petersen, who also suffers from epilepsy. Earlier this year, she almost took those cruel words to heart. Luckily, she reached out and got help and now she wants to help other students.
Besides taking four classes this semester and working for Staples for the past three years, Petersen is also an EMT. “I joined the Lincroft first aid in November 2020, and in August 2021, I became fully certified as a national EMT, so I can work in any state, any situation,” she said.
Petersen has distributed Morgan’s Message flyers around the Brookdale campus that include her contact information. She hopes to eventually have a Morgan’s Message club at Brookdale where students can come together and learn about mental health, talk about mental health and build a community with the message that you are not alone. “I want students to have a safe place to open up if they are struggling,” she said.
Morgan’s Message also hopes to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health within the student and student-athlete community and equalize the treatment of physical and mental health in athletics. The group hopes to expand the dialogue on mental health by normalizing conversations, empowering those who suffer in silence and supporting those who feel alone.
Petersen is excited about the prospect of expanding the Morgan’s Message outreach with the Brookdale community. Right now, we are working through some insurance issues that need to be addressed before we can proceed. Once the insurance concerns are addressed, we hope to really get started, she said.
Petersen can be reached through email at [email protected]
For more information about Morgan’s Message: Morgan’s Message