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?
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 by†Lutheran Services Florida and†the 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:‚Ä®‚Ä®