What’s the Board’s Role in Camper Mental Health Issues and Other Hot Topics?

I’m sitting in a Jewish Camp Board meeting with pit of despair in my stomach. Everyone around the Board table is visibly worried and concerned.

The Camp Director was asked, “What keeps you awake at night?” She is sharing troubling news about the increased rise and severity of mental health concerns among campers and her young adult summer staff. 

“It’s different now than it was even 5 or 10 years ago,” she tells us. “More campers are reporting suicidal thoughts, overwhelming anxiety, and/or experiences of depression. Some as young as 8 years old. It requires much more of my time and attention.”

She is discussing MESH which stands for Mental, Emotional, Social and Health issues. And what she is describing is being reported among camps everywhere.  In fact, this report from the American Camp Association that summarizes the top 7 emerging issues facing camps indicates that Camper Health and Safety is the #1 issue they are facing right now.

So…What Can You Do as a Board Member?

I’m sharing this story with you to illustrate an interesting paradox. While I’m sure you would agree that MESH is a huge concern for the Director, this Board correctly concluded that it was outside the direct purview of the Board as a Governing body. They asked the Director to keep them updated and let them know what approaches she wanted to implement.

But that doesn’t mean there is nothing for the Board to do. I would encourage you as a Board member to be curious, do some research, and explore the resources of the ACA, as well as their Research Reports. In doing so, you will be fulfilling your “Duty of Care” as a Board member and bring more perspective and clarity around this concern and the 6 other major emerging topics facing camps these days.  Be informed and prepared during your next Board meeting. 
Note: ACA membership is required to access many of the ACA resources.

Written by Julia Riseman. Julia is a Mentor with JCamp 180. Julia leads Data2Donors, a program to advance Alumni Outreach, improve camp databases, and raise more major gifts, and Fundraising Fundamentals. Julia has also sparked the creation of many JCamp 180 programs and offerings, including this blog.

Who we are: JCamp 180 is a program of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation (HGF). Our goal is to significantly enhance the long-term effectiveness of nonprofit Jewish camps in North America. To meet this goal, we provide affiliated Jewish camps with consulting services, annual conferences, shared resources, professional development, and matching grant opportunities. Find more at