Mental health plight of tour group teenagers

By Jennifer Lipman, May 10, 2012

Youth leaders are being taught to deal with social and mental health issues affecting teenagers on Israel tours and holiday camps.

Each year the UJIA builds on its leadership training programme to ensure they can cope with teenagers facing emotional or psychological issues, including anorexia and self-harm.

It also guides movements in helping participants break down taboos.

The UJIA, the umbrella organisation for the 5,000 who go away with youth movements annually, is aware there is also need to reassure parents that their children will receive appropriate care.

This month, the UJIA and JAMI will be holding a Youth Mental Health First Aid Training seminar.

In the past two years, six per cent of participants on Israel tour disclosed mental health issues on their forms.

In each case the youngsters had previously sought counselling to help them through depression, self-harm, obsessive compulsive disorder or anxiety.

Last summer alone, the UJIA was told of 48 cases of summer camp participants with welfare and mental health problems, 11 of which involved teens with eating disorders.

Since 2008, more than one in 20 welfare cases the UJIA has dealt with have involved self-harm, while nearly a tenth have involved either a mental health problem or anxiety. Other issues were alcohol or drugs, bullying, relationships and bereavement.

It is thought that the issues have not become more prevalent, but the stigma of discussing mental health is fading and parents are disclosing more information.

"It's probably that we haven't known about these things in the past," said Tanya Harris, mental health lead at JAMI.

"A parent who doesn't disclose is putting their child at risk of not having the amazing time they could have. You wouldn't send a kid to camp who had just had chickenpox, without saying they've been a bit poorly. We need to get to a point where both that and mental health is seen in a similar light."

Last updated: 1:42pm, May 10 2012