Youth Haven Camps Increases Connectedness During Period of Youth Mental Health Crisis

Author: Dara Yah’ya, Director of Youth Development & Wellness

Mental health trends among youth were already increasing pre-pandemic, but recent data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) shows a spike.  More than a third of high school students reported they experienced poor mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic, and 44 percent reported feeling persistently sad or hopeless during the past year. The CDC identifies three keys to addressing mental health and suicide among our nation’s youth, 1) increased connectedness 2) promotion of Social Emotional Learning (SEL) programming (particularly those that emphasize self-awareness, self-management (mediation/mindfulness), social awareness, and responsible decision-making, and 3) improved access to mental health professionals. CDC also highlights that youth connectedness has long lasting effects. Youth who feel connected at school and at home were found to be as much as 66% less likely to experience health risk behaviors related to sexual health, substance use, violence, and mental health in adulthood. LSSNCA’s Youth Development and Wellness (YDW) programs are a part of the solution! Youth Haven Camp and Healthy Relationships programs teach SEL skills through play with engaged supportive adults year-round.

Julian (pseudonym), a long-time camper shared his thought on how YDW programs have helped him manage emotions, increase connectedness, and reach his goals.

Camp broke me out of my shyness. Having to be around people and participate, it helps you see different perspectives. You learn so many life lessons. People don’t really understand what I’m going through. I live with a disability every day. Youth Haven Camps help me opened myself up and taught me how to ask for help. I can do a lot; it is my OWN journey, but sometimes I need help. I still look at the “Rainy Day notes*”. Sometimes I don’t believe those things about me. Those notes really help me at times when I feel down or depressed.

A $75K grant award from the United Planning Organization has afforded LSSNCA the opportunity to serve more young people and integrate Dibble Institute’s SEL curriculum Mind Matter: Overcoming Adversity and Building Resilience with LSSNCA’s Youth Haven Camps and Healthy Relationships program, funded by the US Department Health Human Services Sexual Risk Avoidance Education grant. Recruitment and partnerships with community churches and organizations are underway.  If you would like to learn more about summer programs, email doylec@lssnca.org or stop by LSSNCA’s tent at Capital Pride Festival June 12.

*Rainy Day Notes is an SEL appreciation activity where campers write short notes to fellow campers about their greatness. Each camper goes home with an envelope full of notes to save and read for the day when they may be feeling down.)

Resources:

NAMI_2020MH_ByTheNumbers_Youth

Mental Health Among Adolescents (cdc.gov)

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