Supporting Mental Health at Camp

When, dangerously under-caffeinated, I walked into the nondescript room with a name tag, folder with a schedule for the conference–Supporting Youth Mental Health: Challenges, Resilience, and Growth–and found a chair at a round table facing the podium, I was not expecting what I got. 

Expecting: A few helpful tips at most. Maybe a brownie.

Got: Great insights into the foundations of mental health as well as challenges to that health. 

Got: A deeper understanding of the meaning of resilience and how to cultivate it.

Got: A mind and spirit-expanding experience that will inform my work with kids and teens in the future.

Got: Questions that will take a lifetime to work out, but that we also need to resolve before Mosh, such as “How can we help kids gain independence and form healthy relationships while protecting them from trauma?”

Got: An opportunity to apply the insights gained during the conference with Roni Ziv, U.S.A. camp director and all-around incredible person.

Got: A fudge brownie.

Hashomer Hatzair offered the two-day conference held at the the Marlene Meyerson JCC to members of the board with the financial support of the Yedid Nefesh Initiative as part of an ongoing effort to cultivate, protect, and be aware of the social and emotional wellness of our chanichim and hadracha. While barriers to mental health are nothing new, the rise of social media, Covid-19, and other factors (late stage Capitalism, anyone?) have made mental health issues all the more pressing. 

While clinician Dr. Deborah Gilboa gave the first presentation, entitled From Stressed to Resilient: Helping Youth Navigate Change, my mind went to Mosh. The changes required by Mosh are demanding. Simply sharing cabins and eating meals together is a big change. At the same time, Mosh, with its culture of forming connections, its opportunities to try out different roles and experiences, the “near-peer” guided interactions, and the practice of reflection it promotes, offers a unique opportunity to develop resiliency. I’m not talking about putting on a brave face after a scratch; I’m talking about the kind that will follow chanichim and hadracha through their lives and possibly through the generations that follow: I’m talking about deep resiliency.

After the conference, but before falling asleep for nearly 20 hours, Roni and I sat down to discuss how the lessons could be applied at Mosh. We agreed on several major points:

  1. Everyone in leadership needs a shared understanding of the fundamental building blocks of social and emotional wellness.
  2. The hanaga should have a program in place to help cultivate that wellness.
  3. As the first 48 hours of Mosh are critical to the well-being of chanichim, we should develop a protocol to anticipate and meet their needs during that intense time.

The conference at once reminded me of how valuable Mosh can be in children’s and teens’ development and how much we can have an impact on that development. Not only that, it provided concepts and terms to help guide that undertaking. 

Jordana Jacobs,

Board and Education Committee Member

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