Updated: Apr 6, 2022
By: CHARLOTTE JONES/ STAFF REPORTER
The Hidden Opponent, founded by creator Victoria Garrick, is a mental health advocacy group made for and run by student-athletes. After having great success hosting a TED Talk in 2017 titled, “Athletes and Mental Health: The Hidden Opponent,” Garrick went on to start the organization in the summer of 2020. Now, THO has a chapter here at LIU Brooklyn, and they are doing important work to provide mental health services to athletes everywhere.
“All The Hidden Opponent is really trying to do is eliminate the stigma behind mental health and athletics. Damage to your mental health is important to recognize and treat, just like any other physical injury,” said Caitlyn Kanemitsu, the Campus Captain, President, and Founder of LIU Brooklyn’s Hidden Opponent chapter.
Kanemitsu is a junior at LIU majoring in psychology and she is also a member of the women's swim team. Inspired by her own personal struggles as well as watching her teammates experience similar things, Caitlyn set out to start a chapter of THO here. “I had seen some of my teammates back at home who signed on as their [university’s] campus captain ambassadors and I thought, ‘you know it’s great, why not put myself in that?’” Caitlyn said. She also went on to say how it was comforting to know that there was a community of people who were dealing with the same issues as her and to know she wasn’t alone.
This semester, THO is sponsoring multiple events for students to get involved with. There will be a chalking event in the coming weeks, where students will be able to write all over the sidewalks at campus. Participants can write anything from positive affirmations to simply drawing smiley faces.
On April 15, THO will be sponsoring the women's water polo game. There, it will have a large poster board filled with green sticky notes stating who the players are playing for. “It's just something to let people know that these athletes are humans too,” Caitlyn said.
There will also be a journaling event coming up hosted by Jill Peters. Participants will be given a journal, a stimulating prompt, and have a certain amount of time to journal in. Journaling can be an incredibly helpful release when dealing with certain struggles.
However, not being a student athlete does not bar you from joining THO.
“All of these events are open to students who are not involved in athletics. This club is open for all LIU students who care about addressing the stigma behind mental health in our community here at LIU,” said Caitlyn.
In the coming years, Caitlyn would like to involve more clubs on campus such as the CSA, ASA, and BSU, as well as expandingTHO into more community-based involvement. Her goal is to highlight more student voices.
“This is who we are," said Kanemitsu. "This is our student body, and we’re being represented through these clubs and organizations. If The Hidden Opponent can be a voice for them then I really think we should.”
A THO chapter already existed on the Post campus, but due to a lack of members on the Brooklyn campus one was not able to be implemented until this past fall. However, Caitlyn expressed interest in hosting a joint event between the two chapters, saying “Emily, the president at Post and I were talking about doing a school wide event, as ‘One LIU.'”
Caitlyn also went on to say it would be helpful if the University could offer more support. “I’ve had countless athletes come up to me and say psychiatric services are all booked up. What can I do?” Caitlyn said.
While THO is a safe community for those struggling to reach out to and get involved, members are other student-athletes, not licensed professionals. “I’d like to think we have a strong support system within the teams here at LIU, but what happens when one of us needs help? None of us are equipped to handle that.”
To anyone who is struggling, Caitlyn said, “I know exactly what you are feeling, I am no stranger to feeling isolated. You’re not alone, I know you hear that all the time but that's really the truth.”
If you are interested in joining THO, you can follow it on Instagram @THO_LIUBK, register on Presence, or fill out this Google Form. The organization hosts biweekly meetings on Mondays and Tuesdays at 7:15 that provide a fun and educational look into mental health through the eyes of an athlete.
Are you struggling with mental health? These resources are here for you:
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255
LIU Psychological Services Center in the Pratt Building, Room 510
U Lifeline Organization- provides a free, confidential online resource about emotional health for college students: http://www.ulifeline.org