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Bella Mendoza: Why I Became a Campus Captain

TW: mentions of suicide

Bella and her teammate

As The Hidden Opponent kicks off the July 2024 Campus Captains application cycle, a few of our current and former Campus Captains share their experience in the program!

Bella Mendoza is a fifth-year soccer player at The University of Massachusetts, and is originally from San Ramon, California! Having struggled throughout her life with mental health struggles like anxiety, depression, PTSD, and eating disorders, she wants to help start conversations and end the stigma behind mental health in athletics.

She had a suicide attempt during her sophomore year of college that made her want to spark change. She never wants someone else to go through the feelings and actions that she tried to take that day. After her attempt, she wanted to share her story and do something bigger than herself and share her journey of healing.

Why did you join the Campus Captain program?

I joined the Campus Captain Program because I wanted to be a voice for athletes who may be struggling to speak up on their own, and support others who may be struggling like I was when I was in the lowest points of my life. I wanted to learn more about mental health in student-athletes and share my knowledge, not only to my campus community, but to as many people as possible. I think sharing your story and knowledge is so important because you never know what someone is going through.

What has been your favorite part of the program?

My favorite part of being in this program for the past two years is the connections I have made with others in the program and sparking change in my community. It has been inspiring to see so many like-minded athletes create a positive space surrounding mental health. I want to continue to grow the change and end the stigma surrounding mental health in student-athletes.

Bella getting her wrist taped wearing a THO shirt

Can you elaborate on some activities or events you participated in or hosted this year, whether that be at your school or through the THO community? 

This past year we have had numerous amounts of mental health awareness games/events across different sports on campus with The Hidden Opponent. We have some amazing events planned for this upcoming year that are bigger than what we have done in the past and I am super excited to see the growth on campus. I also had the opportunity to attend the Athlete Activism Summit at the end of June with The Hidden Opponent. It was such an amazing experience to learn, grow, and connect with so many athletes and administrators in the NCAA for Athlete Ally and Adidas. That experience has been the highlight of my college career.

What has been your biggest accomplishment as a CC? What positive changes have you seen on your campus through the program?

My biggest accomplishment as a CC has definitely been the changes I have seen made on my campus, getting more student-athletes involved with The Hidden Opponent whether it be attending our meetings, wanting to participate in mental health awareness games, or staff in the athletic department wanting to support and grow the community and end the stigma while supporting our mission has been such an amazing growth to see over the past few years.

Bella and her dog

What has been your biggest takeaway from the CC program? 

I would say that my biggest takeaway from this program has been support. Connecting with other athletes from various different schools, seeing the accomplishments they are making, and being genuinely happy and supporting one another has been amazing to see. The connections and friends I have made from being a part of this program are something I will never take for granted and I am extremely grateful for and looking forward to growing even more this upcoming year!

What advice or recommendations do you have for athletes who are interested in applying to the program?

The advice I would give to anyone who may be interested in the program is to APPLY!! Even if you don't know anyone doing it, or are scared to see what it entails I really recommend to step out of your comfort zone and apply. The friends and relationships you make in this program is something that is so amazing and life-changing. You have so many athletes who want the same goal as you and everyone in this program genuinely supports one another, especially through times of struggle. While being in this program I have had plenty of struggle with my mental health that almost led to another suicide attempt, but the people in this program and my friends from here have helped me get the help I need and are one of my biggest support systems. Stand up for what you believe in and if you are interested, please apply, because it has been the best decision I have made in my life.



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