Some kids take off to catch that bus with barely a good bye, letting their parents shlep their trunk. No big hug or kiss, no "I'll miss you! Love you!" The words, Don't forget to write, fall on deaf ears. Gone and good riddance. I finally get to be me.
Then there's the opposite extreme, the kid who has panic attacks that begin as the bus begins to pull off the lot, or perhaps they are delayed, he holds them in until the second day of oatmeal that just doesn't taste right. Food issues never thought possible rise from the cafeteria. Some forget to eat out of excitement, some refuse to eat, too anxious.
And there's always the one with anorexia.
One kid is on too much psychotropic medication, newly prescribed, and feels dizzy. Another isn't on enough. Upon examination the camp nurse hears that his family is in the process of a big move, or his parents are fighting, one is threatening divorce. "Have fun, sweetheart, we'll miss you."
So many issues, so many kids. What to do?
And there's the kid who sewed pot into the lining of his jacket, another who cuts herself. There's always one so depressed that everyone knows it. The others don't know what to do. The counselor is beside herself, worries about a possible suicide.
Three to eight weeks, depending upon the sentence. Parents searching camp websites for pics of smiling kids, many rightly rewarded.
I remember my daughter, probably all of fifteen, working as a camp counselor, calling me every night to consult about one kid! Just one with a diagnosis can deter a teenager from a career in mental health. What do I do when. . . . I still hear her voice, the fear. So over her head.
FD is the doctor for an in town summer sleep-away camp. He has hours, sees kids a few times a week. Already . . . one week into the session, the counselors are calling him for emergencies. Some need attention, if not emergency attention. Some kids need therapy, right away. No surprise, but what camp has a therapist on call? He's looking into it. Perhaps there is one.
It isn't that the children who need a little support (or a lot) shouldn't go to camp. Sometimes there's nothing better than camp. I have a patient with a kid who is only good (mentally) at camp. For me, there was nothing better, but that letter from my mom (why do I think daily?) iced the cake.
Counselors really need a mental health in-service before the summer begins, what to expect, how to handle the expected disasters. Most summer camps are born of some type of a community, and that community really should sponsor a therapist, a young person who, although new to the trade, has expertise, at least a master's, and wouldn't mind a few weeks on-site, roasting marshmallows on green sticks, plying away at the trade a few hours a day. I'll bet she would be busy.
The best sum up, of course, for most kids at sleep-way, is the Alan Sherman song, Hello Mudda, Hello Faddu- a Letter from Camp Granada. The abridged lyrics below are from memory, although the best experience, surely, is to get the album and listen to the song on a turn table, mono, preferably.
Hello Mudda, Hello Faddu,
Here I am at Camp Granada
Camp is very entertaining
And they say we'll have some fun if it stops raining.
I went hiking with Joey Spivey
He developed poison ivy.
You remember Lynnard Skinner
He got ptomaine poisoning last night after dinner.
Etc. etc. until the refrain
Take me home oh muddah faddu
Take me home, I hate Granada
Don't leave me out in the forest where
I might get eaten by a bear.
Take me home I promise I will not make noise
Or mess the house with other boys
Oh please don't make me stay. I've been here
One whole day.
Wait a minute
It's stopped hailing.
Guys are swimming
Guys are sailing.
Gee that's better
Mudda faddu kindly disregard this letter.
How I wish I could say, just let them go. Don't worry about them.