Undoubtedly, the pandemic has altered our lives like no other event in recent history. Its impact on the health and well being of people near and far is well documented. The strain on our economy, and the pressures it has placed on communities and families cannot be underestimated. Yet for many, the mental health of our children often gets overshadowed in the midst of everything else. Right now, the mental health of our kids is of paramount importance and one we can not ignore.
Prior to this pandemic, our youth were experiencing the highest rates of anxiety and clinical depression ever. According to the National Institutes of Health, anxiety disorders in adolescents increased 20 percent from 2007 to 2012. Today, 1 in 3 teens will experience an anxiety disorder. The percentage of teens who experienced at least one major depressive episode increased rapidly at about this same time. Today, 1 out of about every 5 girls reports experiencing symptoms. Startlingly, the suicide rate for young people ages 15 to 19 increased by 76 percent from 2007 to 2017 and nearly tripled for adolescents ages 10 to 14.
These numbers, in and of themselves, are appalling but throw a global pandemic on top of an already compromised generation of youth and the impact can be devastating. For so many kids, the pandemic has served to further isolate them from friends and peers. For some, school has provided a limited reconnection to peers and friends. However, school doesn’t provide for the substantive social connections and bonds like camp has done for millions of kids. Peter Scales, Ph.D., and noted author/educator, and Senior Fellow, The Search Institute wrote, “The biggest plus of camp is that camps help young people discover and explore their talents, interests, and values. Most schools don’t satisfy all these needs. Kids who have had these kinds of (camp) experiences end up being healthier and have less problems which concern us all.”
The concept of camp is born in a belief that kids flourish and grow best when they are in an environment that values everyone for who they are. Camp harnesses the very nature of childhood with its quest for exploration and it’s propensity for creativity. Camp provides a culture where positive relationships are what matters most, ones that are based on strong values and care for one another. In an environment like camp, kids develop greater confidence, strong relational bonds, and attain a sense of belonging that is so challenging to find right now. The founder of Active Parenting and family therapist, Michael Popkin, PH,D., puts it like this, “The building blocks of self-esteem are belonging, learning, and contributing. Camps offer unique opportunities for children to succeed in these three vital areas and even beyond home and school.”
Right now our kids need to get reconnected and made to feel a part of something unique, and with purpose. Our kids need to be validated, not by the number of likes on their latest post, but with a smile and a hug from a real friend that genuinely cares. Right now our kids are drowning in loneliness and fear amidst a world of uncertainty, hatred, and separation. There will be no vaccine for loneliness but there will always be a cure. Look to camp to provide your child with that opportunity for happiness, inclusion, kindness, and hope.
For more resources on Kidventure and our belief in the power of camp visit kidventure.com.