Youth Mental Health First Aid

Youth Mental Health First Aid

by Emily Reider

Camp Ondessonk takes the care of campers and staff very seriously, always looking for ways to learn and grow to provide necessary support during summer camp and year-round programs, physically, spiritually, and mentally.  Year-round staff at Ondessonk recently took part in a full-day training to become certified in Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA).  YMHFA is a certification that Camp Ondessonk requires of every summer staff member this year to ensure that campers are being supported in all aspects of their health, growth, and development.

Mental Health First Aid is designed for individuals that work closely with adolescents (ages 12-18) to teach them how to help a youth experiencing mental health challenges or a crisis.  This type of training provides a skill set to help youth better navigate their emotions and determine if behaviors are typical to development or something more serious.  

Year-round staff members participated in an on-site Youth Mental Health First Aid training led by local community partner, Arrowleaf.  Arrowleaf is a nonprofit human services organization that works to build well-being for Southern Illinoisans throughout their lives so they can weather life’s storms, reach their full potential, and help their communities thrive.  The day-long training provided knowledge regarding the signs and symptoms of mental distress in a youth, knowledge to handle situations to support and comfort youth until they can receive professional care, along with practice scenarios.

Although all summer staff will have this training in order to better care for campers, the year-round team took part in this certification to not only care for the campers, but also the summer staff.  The past two years of increased societal anxiety and isolation has led to an increase in mental health challenges faced by youth.  Ondessonk’s summer camp programs provide an experience that encourages campers to have fun, grow spiritually, make friends, grow in self-confidence and self-esteem, and develop values.

All of Camp’s programs focus on providing a fun and enriching experience for participants by encouraging them to participate in a wide variety of new and exciting activities.  Camp is a safe space that allows campers and staff to experience their emotions more deeply.  Now, summer and year-round staff are better equipped to support and guide individuals thanks to YMHFA training.


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