Top Tips for Camps
- Establish a mental health support network. Build relationships with community mental health resources prior to your camp season. Have professionals in place that you can contact at any time to help you with mental health issues.
- Provide a positive camp environment. Feeling safe is critical to a child’s learning and mental health. Promote positive behaviors such as respect, responsibility, and kindness. Prevent negative behaviors such as bullying and harassment. Provide easily understood rules of conduct and fair discipline practices. Teach campers to work together to stand up to a bully, encourage them to reach out to lonely or excluded peers, celebrate acts of kindness, and reinforce the availability of adult support.
- Create a sense of belonging. Feeling connected and welcomed is essential to a child’s positive adjustment, self-identification, and sense of trust in others and themselves. Building strong, positive relationships among campers and staff is important to promoting mental wellness.
- Educate staff on the symptoms of and help for mental health problems. Information helps break down the stigma surrounding mental health and enables staff and campers to recognize when to seek help. Your mental health professional network can provide useful information on symptoms of problems like depression or suicide risk. These can include changes in habits, withdrawal, decreased social and academic functioning, erratic or changed behavior, and increased physical complaints.
- Establish an incident response team. Being prepared to respond to an incident is important to safeguarding campers’ physical and mental well-being. Incident response teams should include relevant administrators, staff, and mental health professionals who collaborate with community resources.
Tips adapted from Supporting Children’s Mental Health: Tips for Parents and Educators. National Association of School Psychologists.
Courses and Records Webinars
- Mental Health Issues in Camp — 90-minute recorded webinar
- Practical Tools for Addressing MESH Issues at Camp — 1-hour recorded webinar
- Mental Health First Aid — Watch for these courses on the events calendar
- Youth Mental Health Through COVID-19 — CampWire Episode 38
- Stephen Gray Wallace & Youth Mental Health — CampWire Episode 30
Articles and Advice on Mental Health
- Making Mental Health Matter at Camp. Aaron Selkow, Camping Magazine
- What Now? Understanding and Supporting Campers with Mental Health Issues. Camping Magazine
- Children's Mental Health and Camp: What Is Our Role? Ethan Shagfer, Camping Magazine
- Weathering the Changes: Discriminating Mental Health Problems and Normal Developmental Struggles in Hard-to-Reach Campers. Karen P. Carlson, PhD, and Alicia H. McAuliffe-Fogarty, PhD, Camping Magazine
- Camper Mental Health. Christopher Thurber, Ph.D., ABPP, and Karen Carlson, Ph.D.
- Supporting Children’s Mental Health: Tips for Parents and Educators. National Association of School Psychologists
- Toolkit for Community Conversations About Mental Health. MentalHealth.gov
- Diálogos Comunitarios Acerca de la Salud Mental. MentalHealth.gov En Espanol
Articles and Advice on Related Critical Issues
- Assessing Suicidality. Christopher Thurber, Ph.D., ABPP
- Characteristics of Youth Who Have Caused School-Associated Violent Deaths. National School Safety Center
- Children with Oppositional Defiant Disorder. American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
- Conduct Disorder in Children and Youth. American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
- Eating Disorders and Camp. Christopher Thurber, Ph.D., ABPP
- Help Stop Teen Suicide. American Academy of Pediatrics
- Helping Teenagers with Stress. American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
- Self-Injury in Adolescents. American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
- Through Our Eyes: Children, Violence, and Trauma. U.S Department of Justice Office of Victims of Crimes
- Alliance for Hope International
- American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
- American Academy of Pediatrics
- Creating Community Solutions - discussions throughout the country
- Mental Health First Aid USA
- National Association of School Psychologists
- National Dialogue on Mental Health
- National School Safety Center
- All ACA Resources on the Emerging Issue of Public Violence