“It’s been a tough few months, but Hilary has been a godsend,” said one parent who regularly attends Laity Lodge Family Camp. Hilary Monford is a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) and a mental health consultant for Laity Lodge Family Camp and LLYC.
But before this story goes any further, let’s reflect a moment. It has been a tough few months in pandemic world. Twenty-two million Americans lost their jobs. Four million remain unemployed. Excessive deaths have soared to nearly 300,000 (not all from COVID-19), which means millions of Americans are grieving the recent loss of a friend or family member. Schools continue to limit activities and attendance. Many playgrounds are still fenced off. Movie theaters are dark. We are all wearing masks.
Now back to that parent. Because therapy still has a stigma, the family preferred to remain anonymous. “We called Hilary in a moment of real fear and uncertainty,” the parent explained, “fear for what [our teenager] was going through and uncertainty of how to be a parent. Hilary immediately established calm and helped us trust that help was available.”
Years ago, Hilary was on the original advisory board for Family Camp with Deborah Rogers and several others, when the decision was made to include therapy as a camp activity.
“We wanted to normalize it,” Monford explains. “So it’s like every other activity. They introduce me during the opening Roundup session and there is a sign-up sheet [for counseling] just like normal activities.”
When the world is normal and families are regularly visiting Headwaters, many retreats still offer families the chance to sign up for marriage counseling, individual counseling, or counseling with the kids. This summer, Jonny May, Michael Chiles, David Roper, and Hilary Monford were all scheduled to be available to families during weeklong camps. Those camps never happened.
Yet, in the middle of a pandemic, families need this service more than ever. The National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) reported a 65% increase in calls to their helpline during the summer. The Center for Disease Control reported 40% of Americans are experiencing mental and behavioral health problems like substance abuse or depression. In late June, the CDC reported that 25% of teenagers 18-24 had contemplated suicide in the last 30 days.
As these statistics were coming out in the news, Senior Director Cary Hendricks couldn’t connect families with counselors at Headwaters. So he got creative.