According to the Huffington Post, more than 6 million kids will prepare to head off to sleep-over camps this summer.
Some kids (like my daughter) will leave with a smile on their faces, ready to take over the camp and make everyone their new best friend. Others will be tentative at the thought of leaving Mom or Dad or their iPhone.
And some kids will be truly terrified about some aspects about going to camp but unwilling to admit it. But why?
More and more organizations like Salvation Army, Inner City Impact, Fresh Air Fund, and others are helping to send kids from economically disadvantaged homes to camps across the nation. And their efforts should be applauded. Kids lives can be radically improved by camping experiences.
But, statistically speaking, high percentages of inner city children have been exposed to violence that has left them traumatized and living with untreated symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. According to Howard Spivak M.D.,director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Violence Prevention, youth living in inner cities show a higher prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) than soldiers. Spivak presented research showing that children are essentially “living in combat zones” at a Congressional briefing held April 27, 2012, in Washington D.C.
Homicide is the second leading cause of death for youth ages 10-24. In many cities, it is the leading cause (e.g.,San Francisco).
So what implications do these statistics have for the average camp director and staff? Or inner city youth pastor and staff?
Eight percent of the general population battles with PTSD, and if your camp (or church or organization) serves an inner city population, that number skyrockets. Trauma-informed care should become the standard within your people-helping community.
Many of your campers don’t want to tell you how afraid or uncomfortable they really are. The symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder include nightmares, flashbacks, obsessive-compulsive behaviors, zoning out/dissociation, triggers and other fears. You can be sure that twelve and fifteen-year-olds don’t want to show up at camp and admit they’re different from other kids. It’s up to camp staff to create trauma-informed environments that help campers feel safe and understood.
Trauma informed care requires training and learning to look at the services you deliver from a fresh perspective. The basic premise for providing services shifts from “What is wrong with you” to “What has happened to you?” PTSDPerspectives can help your camp or organization take steps toward moving toward trauma-informed care and present staff training that helps you accomplish this shift. “Trauma informed services” are not necessarily designed to treat symptoms related to trauma but they are informed by and sensitive to trauma-related issues in survivors. We offer insight that comes from personal experience and our relationships with trauma specialists across the nation.
What are the goals of trauma-informed care?
Understand trauma and its impact on the lives of those you serve
Promote individual competence
Support personal growth, choice, and autonomy
Promote healing within relationships
Promote physical and spiritual well-being
Promote the understanding that healing from trauma is possible
Communicate understanding, commitment, and institutional practices through reasonable accommodations
The move to trauma-informed care begins with leadership–with a commitment from the top down. As a simple first step, consider requiring your staff to read the free ebook we offer on the homepage of PTSDPerspectives.org: The Truth about Trauma. This easily understood book provides a basic understanding of post-traumatic stress disorder. And contact us here at PTSDPerspectives if we can be of service to you.