Making Sense of MESH: Partnerships with Parents

As we tackle mental, emotional, and social health (MESH) issues in our programs, we must use every tool possible to help the struggling person. Sometimes, the most powerful tool can be the partnerships that we form with our parents. When strong, these partnerships can yield a support system where risks can be mitigated and the best interests of all can be advanced. However, at issue are the moments where these partnerships are weak or even nonexistent.

A Conversation with Katie — How One Camper Handles Mental Illness

The thing about mental, emotional and social health (MESH) is that you never know when, and you never know how, it is going to affect you or someone you love. You don’t know when your best friend or your neighbor may begin to struggle. Or finally tell you they have been for a long time. And you never know when that camper, that you would never admit was your favorite but of course was, will arrive back at camp for her 4th summer and doesn’t quite seem “the same”. But that is the thing about mental illness.

Camp: An Antidote to Stress?

At a recent gathering, a group of camp professionals were talking about stress. They mentioned how it seemed fairly pervasive among campers and staff, sometimes at debilitating levels. Then they said that for some youth, especially returning campers and staff, camp arrival triggered a huge sigh of relief and seemingly low stress levels. Exuberant comments like "I'm back!" and behaviors such as running pell-mell around camp provided solid testimony to their delight, a freeing of their spirit and a drop in their stress level. It took new people more time to experience that.

Want to Improve Your Response to Mental Health Challenges?

Camp professionals often ask what they might do to more effectively respond to staff and camper mental, emotional and social health (MESH) needs. This often arises from a desire to be as inclusive as possible while also recognizing that most camps are not therapeutic settings. The Healthy Camps III committee, a group of ACA and ACN professionals working to address that concern, offer the following ideas:

Moderating Childhood Stress Through Camp

Exposure to adverse childhood events (ACE) can lead children to drinking alcohol, smoking, illicit drug use, overeating, and other maladaptive behaviors (Stevens, 2015). These children can experience depression, anxiety, and a variety of other psychological problems. In 2013, the Center for Disease Control reported 17% of students considered attempting suicide and 113 actual suicides occurred each day (one every thirteen minutes).

MESH Health Fair Series

Mental Health! A State of Well-Being

Mental health is not a "dirty phrase" and creating positive conversations will ensure its acceptance as a measure of one’s health. Learn more by watching one or more of the presentations in our MESH Series

With that In Mind, Part II: What Staff Need to Know about Their Own Mental Health

Think, for a minute, about the adults to whom you were most strongly attached as a child. Can you see their faces and remember how they treated you? Perhaps you see parents, teachers, coaches, clergy, or youth leaders, such as camp staff members. Resilient adults can all think of at least one warm, reliable person who served as a defining caregiver and mentor. Their warmth and reliability are what created that resilience, that ability to bounce back from adversity. They brought us joy and boosted our confidence.

With That In Mind, Part 1: What Directors Need to Know About Staff Mental Health

Hiring young adults to care for other people’s children seems like folly, from a neurodevelopmental perspective. Nobody’s brain is fully developed, many activities are dangerous, the weather can be violent, kids’ behavior is unpredictable, and all staff could use more training than directors have time to give. Pepper that risk and lack of preparation with a few mental health problems, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. Fortunately, the right prevention, training, and support can help you thwart catastrophe and create a formative experience for your young participants.

Pages