Want to Improve Your Response to Mental Health Challenges?

September 27, 2016
Linda Ebner Erceg, RN, MS, PHN
MESH logo

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:

  • Ask your local ACA office to schedule a Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) course. This 8-hour, interactive experience teaches participants to effectively respond to someone having a mental health crisis, discover what is supportive for the person, and understand the boundaries of one’s response.  The course text is an excellent take-back-to-camp resource. 
    • Want to talk with a camp professional who has both done the course and implemented it at camp?  Alli Faricy, director at Minnesota’s Camp Foley, is your go-to contact and a member of the Healthy Camps Committee. Email her at alli@campfoley.com
    • Mental Health First Aid courses have already been taught in the Northland and Rocky Mountain sections; Heart of the South does theirs on September 20th.  Isn’t it time your Section provided this training too?   Or, if you’re like Alabama’s Space Camp, schedule a training specifically for your staff and invite surrounding camps to join you.
    • Find a PDF from ACA about the Mental Health First Aid course.
    • Learn even more about the course from the company that developed it at www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/cs/
  • ACA’s Mental, Emotional & Social Health (MESH) Resources begins where you can:
    • Download a copy of the MESH icon (above) to use in your camp materials. Use it to draw attention to important content for staff and parents!
    • Download a copy of “Assessment of a Camper’s Behavior of Concern.” Coming out of the Healthy Camps Committee, this tool is designed for a camp professional to use when talking with a parent whose child has a MESH concern.  The tool comes with directions; be sure to capture those too! 
  • ACA’s website lists upcoming events, including Mental Health First Aid courses at various locations.  Yours could be here too! 

Call to Action

The Healthy Camps Committee continues to develop strategies to help the Camp Community respond more effectively to campers and staff with MESH challenges. The committee would like to hear from you, especially your ideas for effective responses and/or the incidents that have been tough to handle (respond to). Share your perspective by contacting the committee chair, Linda Erceg, at 218-444-5923 or emailing erceg@campnurse.org

Better yet, post a response to this blog! 

Just as we train with first aid courses to respond appropriately to injury and illness events, isn’t it time we also train so we can appropriately respond to campers and staff with a mental, emotional or social health health challenge?

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