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The Hidden Opponent on the Ithaca College Campus

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The Hidden Opponent, a non-profit and advocacy group for mental health, is spreading its message on the Ithaca College campus by electing students as Campus Captains to advocate for mental health awareness.

Jake Lentz, a junior and co-Captain of the Ithaca Men’s Crew team, is a Campus Captain for the Hidden Opponent and has been working to spread the message. The mission statement of the Hidden Opponent states that they are a non-profit advocacy group that brings awareness to the mental of health of student-athletes and brings to light issues within sport culture.

                                      Lentz rowing with other members of the Ithaca Men’s Crew Team

Lentz said that the Hidden Opponent is meaningful for him because it’s “a group that breaks the stigma of mental health for athletes and provides a safe space and resources for athletes who are struggling as well.”

For every athlete, sports have a different effect on their mental health. Lentz stated that sports have affected his mental health in different ways,

“It provides a really good escape and safe place for me to get me away from my typical day to day issues,” said Lentz. “When I’m out on the water all I’m thinking about is rowing, however with that it, it does add more pressure to my day and there are a lot more things and responsibilities to be thinking about that can cause a lot more stress to the day but I’ll say it definitely helps me more than it hurts me.”

Lentz said he hopes The Hidden Opponent’s presence on campus will lead to more conversations about mental health,

“We are more of an influencer of it’s okay to not be okay,” he said.

     The Hidden Opponent is an online advocacy group that advocates for the mental health of student-athletes

The main goal of The Hidden Opponent is to make students comfortable to talk about their mental health. They want to establish a culture within the sports world that mental health is not something that athletes should be ashamed of. With more and more athletes adopting this culture The Hidden Opponent hopes that mental health in sports will be held to a new standard.

The Hidden Opponent is not just an outlet for student-athletes on campus to learn more about mental health. On September 13 the Ithaca College Student-Athlete Advisory Council hosted a Zoom event with the Founder and CEO of the Hidden Opponent, Victoria Garrick. Garrick shared her story of her struggles with mental health and body-image when she was a student-athlete. Students were able to understand what The Hidden Opponent is right from the source and it had an impact on many.

Why must there be a focus on mental health specifically for student-athletes? One other mental health advocate non-profit is Athletes for Hope and they state,

“With young adults, especially college athletes, the statistics are startling: 33% of all college students experience significant symptoms of depression, anxiety or other mental health conditions. Among that group, 30% seek help. But of college athletes with mental health conditions, only 10% do.”

The statistics show that student-athletes are less likely to seek out help than regular college students and organizations such as The Hidden Opponent are hoping to make a positive change.

“A lot of times athletes’ mental health gets overlooked and forgotten about and for people who are struggling or going through a tough time with mental health they may not know who to reach out to,” said Lentz “By having Campus Captains I think its super helpful for them and we can be a first line for people to reach out.”

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