Jewish Camps Ready to Support Camper Mental Health
by Melissa Scholten-Gutierrez, Jewish Camp Initiative Manager
The coming summer is a critical moment for addressing child and adolescent mental health. After nearly a year of living with uncertainty, fear, and separation, many kids are exhibiting signs of anxiety and depression. The safe return to summer camp for 2021 requires planning not only for physical health and safety, but also for campers’ mental health. While kids can’t wait to reconnect in person, without screens, we also know that the pandemic has had a deep impact on their mental health.
Camps across the country are prioritizing having trained mental health providers on their campuses this summer to support the as yet unknown needs of campers. “We are experiencing a world-wide shared trauma experience,” Jill Goldstein Smith, Senior Program Manager at Foundation for Jewish Camp reminds us. “Camp provides a bubble of sorts, but it is also a safe space to be vulnerable – which is where the growth happens.”
Professionals at our Jewish camps, both day and overnight, know how much kids need and want to be back at camp with their peers, and are ready to meet them where they are. Yet in order to do so, they need partnership and input from parents. Danielle Steinhart, LCSW, Director of Camper Care at URJ Camp Coleman says, “When parents provide complete information about their child, it helps us do our job better. Parents know their child’s strengths and challenges better than we do when they initially arrive at camp. Camp staff can set them up for their greatest success when we have this insight. This partnership is critical for each child’s positive camp experience.”