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Justine Thomas: Why I Became a Campus Captain

Justine Thomas at a THO mental health awareness table

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!

Justine Thomas played volleyball at Brevard College, located in the Blue Ridge Mountain Range in Western North Carolina. She became interested in mental health advocacy due to her belief that the modern athletic realm could benefit from candid conversations, highly accessible resources, and open support of student-athletes. She emphasized that too often we hear of criticisms placed upon athletes for not seeking help, and wants to encourage the questioning of the system of available resources and the ever-present stigma of mental health in the athletic world itself. 

Why did you join the Campus Captain program?

I initially joined the Campus Captain program during my Junior year of high school. The story is quite ironic, because the man who introduced me to Victoria Garrick-Browne and The Hidden Opponent had actually been my volleyball coach who was extremely abusive of his authority. He used fear as a manipulation tactic and increasingly became more physically aggressive towards me. He held a Zoom meeting with Victoria, unaware of the contrast that his actions held to his promotion of student-athlete mental health. After listening to Victoria talk about her experiences, I immediately rushed to apply for the program, which was approaching its second year. The community built by the Campus Captain program actually helped me to gain the courage to speak out about how I was being treated by this coach, which eventually evolved into his removal from my high school, and allowed me to seek the proper mental health resources. I continue to remain a part of this program so that I can share my story, and help others break through the stigma surrounding mental health in order to receive the support that they need.

Justine Thomas playing volleyball

What has been your favorite part of the program?

My favorite part of the Campus Captain program will always be the community of like-minded student-athletes. The support generated from others within the program is constant and truly genuine, whether it be when asking for advice on projects, sharing new ideas for advocacy events, or even just checking in with each other. I have developed relationships throughout all levels of the program, and they are breathtakingly refreshing in a world that typically shuns open discussion of mental health issues.

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? 

I have been a part of numerous mental health events at Brevard College, from simple activities such as club meetings, to big events such as activities promoting mental health awareness. My absolute favorite one has been Self-Care Night, which was hosted by numerous clubs and organizations in and around the community of Brevard. Held just before the end of the semester and exam week, Brevard’s chapter of The Hidden Opponent had the opportunity to collaborate with Transylvania County Strong, Morgan’s Message, and many other mental health focused organizations. I was thrilled and honored to offer Build-Your-Own-Spa Kits, an idea that I developed with other Campus Captains, and it was a huge success. We were able to completely clear out of all of our items, and even got to promote our chapter, ultimately gaining an overwhelming amount of support and new members. 

Justine Thomas

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 Campus Captain has definitely been the founding of Brevard College’s own chapter of The Hidden Opponent. It was hard work, and there were many roadblocks that we had to overcome in order to launch our chapter, but it is a huge privilege to be the president of the chapter. Since working with the Campus Captain program this year, Brevard College has embraced candid conversations and developed a huge network of mental health resources. Having a student-body with a majority made up of student-athletes welcoming the idea of dismantling the traditional stigma of seeking help for mental health has been astonishing. I am so excited to see the excitement grow about modernizing the opinions surrounding mental health.

What has been your biggest takeaway from the CC program? 

My biggest takeaway from the Campus Captain program is that you are never alone. Someone will always be there for you or will have experienced exactly what you may be going through. There is assistance, assurance, empathy, and understanding, no matter who you are or where you come from. 

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

If I had to offer advice or recommendations for any athlete interested in applying to the Campus Captain program, I would say absolutely do it. This program offers a safe place to talk openly about absolutely anything, while developing yourself as an individual. If you are someone who has strong leadership and organizational skills, this is a wonderful opportunity to share your passion, develop communication and time management abilities, and be a part of a community where you



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