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A 'Shrink Camp' for Kids Affected by BP Disaster

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For adults, an environmental disaster can trigger feelings of helplessness, loss, fear, depression and even suicidal thoughts. When a massive threat damages homes and livelihoods linked to nature's balance, some grownups might conjure apocalyptic thoughts that affect their work productivity and the quality of their relationships. But what about kids?
A 'Shrink Camp' for Kids Affected by BP Disaster
That's one of the questions posed by religious leaders and other children's advocates in the state of Florida. As they watched a rising tide of anxiety and depression arise in school-age children, the idea came forth to create a camp wherein children could receive psychological counseling in a nonthreatening environment.

Parents near the Gulf may notice that their children are experiencing sleep disturbances, nightmares, anger and acting-out behavior. Now, if you live in Florida, free help is available. This week, the first "Camp Beyond the Horizon" will launch in Pensacola. Operated byLutheran Services Florida andthe state's Department of Children and Families (who teamed up in the past to help children make sense of Hurricane Katrina), the inaugural camp aims to help youngsters struggling to deal with the emotional fallout from the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The camps are tuition-free and serve kids entering grades K through 6. In group sessions with licensed counselors, kids dialogue about their fears and anxiety. According to the camp's director, Jamie Cochran, the stories have been heartwrenching. "Children fear the beach, they fear sickness and they grieve for the loss of wildlife," says Cochran. One 5-year-old girl wondered why the people who died in the initial explosion were thought of less than the oil itself. Another girl mourned for the loss of her fishing experiences with her father -- a bonding behavior that had become a family tradition.

The beach, ocean and marine ecology are intrinsically connected to the lifestyles of families who live and work along the Coast. For some kids, it's as if someone has turned their world upside down, and Camp Beyond the Horizon hopes to address the emotional needs of these young victims of the BP oil spill disaster. Plans are to open camps in other communities on the west coast of Florida (based on need), and also to create weekend camps when school starts later this month.

The first few camps are scheduled as follows:

  • Aug. 2 through 6: Grace Lutheran Church, Pensacola
  • Aug. 16 through 20: St. Luke Methodist Church, Pensacola

Volunteer and staff opportunities are available at each camp. For more information about volunteering or to register your child, contact Lutheran Services Florida at 850-453-2772 or e-mail Jamie Cochran at

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1 comments so far | Post a comment now
Kristen August 4, 2010, 7:39 AM

You know I believe in being an open person but this seems drastic. Are our kids so coddled these days that we really need something like this, I’m not dismissing that this was an awful man made disaster but really. What are we teaching our kids, or better yet why on earth are parents not sitting down and talking through this stuff with their kids. I am a person who is in touch with my own feelings and those of my children but on the flip side I also need to teach my kids that life happens and it sucks sometimes but we press on through it.

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