mandag den 15. december 2014

Letter from the grave

Freddy McConnel - a talented musician died as result of Heroin overdose. It is rare in countries where people are not punished for overdosing but still happens where the authorities publish the overdosed patients after they have recovered.

The young man was sent to Sagewalk in a try to get clean. Here is what he stated in his journal discovered after this death:

I arrived at the SageWalk office scared out of my wits. I was stripped of my belongings and clothes and given a bright orange uniform similar to those worn in prison. I was handcuffed, blindfolded and thrust into the back of an SUV for a two-hour drive into the Oregon desert where, with a large, heavy rucksack containing a sleeping bag, rice, lentils and farina (a sort of carbo¬hydrate gloop), a small tarpaulin, orange clothes and hiking boots, I was left in the ‘care’ of two of the hillbillies who accompanied us.

I at once refused to do anything they said and to my horror received a slap to the face. I told them that that was illegal but they ignored me and, as I further protested, one of them pushed me and I fell face- first to the ground, cutting my face and starting to bleed. I recall shrieking amid tears of anguish for my dad to save me but it was to no avail.
About a week into my stay, we were backpacking and there was a small rock face, maybe 10ft high, that we had to climb with our backpacks on. We had already hiked about five miles that day and I was feeling faint.

Halfway up, I lost consciousness for a second, or just lost my footing, and fell 5ft on to a rock. I landed back first and experienced an excruciating pain.

When I put my hand to my back to inspect the damage I felt a hot, thick trickle of blood. I asked for a doctor but received instead a kick to the ribs and an order to keep on hiking. The next break wasn’t for another mile-and-a-half. I have since seen doctors and had X-rays and it seems that it is a permanent injury. This makes me feel extremely bitter and upset

There were no phones so I couldn’t talk to my parents and the letters were checked before we sent them so I couldn’t tell them what was happening.

I delayed telling my parents even after I was let out because there is a policy that if the child misbehaves within two years, they can be sent back for free.

The brutality continued for two months until I was set free. It was like being born again but I carried a huge amount of resentment.

[A spokesman for Aspen Education, which owns SageWalk Wilderness School declined to comment on Freddy’s claims that he was slapped, shoved and kicked, resulting in bleeding wounds and a permanent back injury during his two-month stay.] I had asked my parents for an escape but they had not listened. They had sat by while I had endured untold physical and emotional pain.

I recall one week there when I was so overrun with emotion that something snapped and I didn’t speak for four or five days. I couldn’t. I felt so completely void. I lived in fear and so was relatively well-behaved as far as my parents could see for a few months after I got back, but then I discovered mephedrone

The cost for this stay was that he felt abandoned. It might have thrown him further into drug use.

Sagewalk closed in 2009 after a 16 year old boy died on his day at the wilderness program. Aspen Education Group is in the process of dissolving after many of their former patients have become adults willing to speak out about their experiences.

He died only 18 year old. Decide the rehab for your child with care. Seek unlimited visitation rights from day one. Support your child by your presence.

How drugs snuffed out Freddy McConnel's brilliant young life - told in his own vividly moving words (The Daily Mail)

mandag den 17. november 2014

Epileptic girl could be at danger in a wilderness program

A recent plea from a step-parent was found on the Internet and it is quiet alarming. A girl suffering from epilepsy was put in a stressful situation far away from health services which are needed to help her overcome a possible seizure.

I looking for anyone who has good information on SUWS of the Carolinas.

My step-daughter is being held there. She was "escorted" there by a transport service 23 days ago. We are trying to get her released and need more information on the conditions of the camp.

She has epilepsy which is a concern, because her seizures are triggered by emotional stress (psychosomatic). We have had a phone conference with the Judge to request her release into our care. The judge doesn't seem to have an issue with awarding us custody of her, as our state says that any child over 14 can request a modification of custody. (Her mother is currently the custodial parent.)

The trouble we are facing is that the judge does not want to release her in the middle of a "therapeutic program" for fear of causing psychological harm. We are looking for good evidence to support that keeping her there would cause more harm than good. We submitted a letter from her psychiatrist that says removing her should not cause harm, but he is not convinced. We have a full hearing set for November 26th.

I am looking to paint a picture for the Judge of what the conditions at SUWS are really like because he just doesn't get it.

If anyone is willing, I need good information on living conditions, hygiene practices, meals, restrictions, pack weights, etc.

Can you help me, please?

That is quiet alarming. People with epilepsy are at an increased risk of death. This increase is between 1.6 and 4.1 fold greater than that of the general population. One of the key issues is stress. Being removed in handcuffs and leg restraints will cause stress. While people suffering from epilepsy are recommended to wear dark glasses being hooded to prevent the participants in wilderness programs to see where they are taken will be a huge risk provoking a seizure.

If a seizure occurs in a wooden area like the one SUWS of the Carolina, the paramedics could face difficulties to land their helicopter and save her life.

We know that a judge will have to rule in this case. Please release this girl now, so she doesn’t end up dying from a seizure far away from the emergency services which could save her life.


tirsdag den 28. oktober 2014

Does wilderness therapy work? A friend of an attendee looks back

A friend to a former attendee reflects over the ordeal his friend George (Name invented) went through at an unnamed camp and the later life George had after he returned having lost important time in school.

Throughout elementary school and into high school I mainly hung out with a guy named George and one other kid from the neighborhood. George was a smart kid with a physically abusive older brother, an absentee/overworked dad, and an emotionally abusive mom. Whenever I stayed over at his house, we were completely unsupervised in the basement and did whatever we wanted to do. As we got older, we were harmless teenagers who occasionally smoked pot, had "girlfriends", occasionally got invited to parties with booze, and were generally fairly harmless suburban kids. We had never gotten into any real trouble and all did well in school.

One night when I was around 16 I found myself staying over at his place. I could tell something was odd; his mom practically insisted I stayed over, and she took us out to eat junk food (which never happened). We spent the night playing video games. We didn't have any pot, but I remember I had just obtained a new (crappy) pipe to smoke out of, so I had it on me that night. I left it sitting in his nightstand drawer so I wouldn't have to sleep on it in my pocket.

We were woken up by several men crowding into his basement room. The first thing I remember was them going straight for the night stand and taking my new (crappy) pipe, and holding it up triumphantly like they had found the grail. As George's mom was bitching him out, I calmly explained it was my pipe, and I'd like it back.

In response, we learned what was going on: these strange men (3 of them, 20s-30s, well built) were going to take George to an outdoor program in southern Utah for like 6 months. I didn't know what to say. I looked at his mom in disbelief and asked to call my parents who lived about 5 minutes away for a ride. Normally I'd walk, but I wanted to get out of there immediately.

When I explained to my mom what was going on over the phone, she suddenly became very terse and asked to speak with George's mom. I didn't hear the conversation but his mom went a little bit white, held her hand to her mouth, and started apologizing to my mom. My parents were not impressed that I had been put in the middle of their shitty parenting decisions (to send George away to a camp) and were appalled at the fact she even let me stay over that night, knowing this was happening the next morning. My parents never thought very highly of George's parents, even though all 4 of them (my parents and his parents) were doctorate-level educated professionals.

George was led out of the house and into a car. I followed him and waited outside. We both ignored the men from the program and his mother telling us to be quiet, and George gave me a big list of social things to do for him as he way being led away. My mom showed up a few minutes later and I quickly left.

George was gone for nearly the whole school year.

When he got back -- and I remember the day very clearly -- he talked the taxi driver that his parents had paid for to drive him from the airport into dropping him off at my house instead. He had lost about half his body weight and looked like a different person with his extremely tan skin. He had a duffle bag full of very dirty clothes and -- wait for it -- tons of booze that he had bought at the airport. Obviously camp was effective.

Since he had missed almost a full year of school, he was being held back. One of the smartest people I knew (he had been in the "gifted kid" classes) was being held back. He found it so insulting that he immediately dropped out of school, moved in with his girlfriend (her parents were huge enablers), and didn't speak to his parents for several years. George's dad was a lawyer and pulled every string possible to legally force George back into their house, but he always chose the street (and slept in the park several times) over going back to his parents. His parents got divorced shortly after he turned 18.

George had stories about being outdoors for days. He taught us all how to make a fire using sticks (but he was the only one who could reliably get a fire going). When we went on hikes in the mountains, he suddenly knew all this stuff about the plants and animals. It was actually pretty cool, except that... he was a different person -- infinitely more bitter and full of hate. He started to act out in weird, violent ways -- taking jokes too far, accidentally physically or emotionally hurting friends of ours. He started to lose friends and people kept their distance from him, scared of him. He started hanging out with much older people (late 20s) that were weird, always pushed drugs on us (including cocaine), and, in hindsight, were probably child molesters. Eventually he faded away from our social scene.

As the years went on he developed a significant drinking problem, was never able to hold a job, and got a couple girls pregnant. Last I heard he was doing alright, living with his wife and their kid, and working some deadend job.

This kid had a lot of potential and it was ruined by one gigantic act of stupid parenting. People who knew him as a kid are amazed to hear this story -- they never thought it would happen to George -- the kid who showed so much promise.

I continue to be thankful that my parents are reasonable people. I got an informative lecture on how smoking pot stunts a growing brain (who knows if its true, but when it's coming from your doctor parents, you tend to believe it as a kid). It actually made some sense to me and I smoked significantly less pot until my 20s. I probably got grounded too. My parents gave me a long leash, but still stepped in to be parents when it was appropriate. Also, I was forbidden from going over to George's house, but not because of George -- because of his parents. They would turn a blind eye when George would stay over for a few days.

Hopefully some parent out these reads this and has their perspective changed for the better. And I feel so fucking sorry for kids that are put through this shit.
PS: there was zero religious influence in any of this. His family is agnostic as far as I know.

When I was a teenager growing up in Salt Lake City... (The original testimony)

onsdag den 13. august 2014

Isolation in wilderness program requires thorough screening of employees and security precautions

When you send your child to a wilderness program the only way of communication is through old snail mail. Some program even execute censorship when it comes to these letters so they become more "therapeutic".

But what if your child experience real trauma due to the hands of the employees? How does your child alert you?

The simple answer is: It cannot be done as the wilderness programs are designed today. The child protection departments in various states do not conduct uannounced inspections in private and public wilderness programs. It is a question of logistics.

But without any public oversight in the field the teenagers are easy prey if an employee decides to assault or otherwise abuse one of teenagers.

In a case involving Second Nature Blue Ridge wilderness program, authorities is now investigating whether a teenager was forced to have sex with one of the employees.

If you decide to make use of wilderness programs, please ensure how you will able to communicate with your child without censorship and without notice to the program, they would not have time to alter certain statements.

Sex abuse alleged at camp for youths (The Clayton Tribune)

søndag den 15. juni 2014

Aspiro wilderness experience

This testimony was found on the author's webpage. All rights goes to the original author

In the summer of 2010, I disappeared without a trace. Peers speculated about my month-long absence. Their theories included: suicide, spiritual voyages, and internment at a mental institution. None of these were far from the truth. I was forced against my will to attend the Aspiro "wilderness therapy" program Vantage Point, a camp in the state of Utah that specialized in the treatment of "adolescent boys and girls ages 13–17 and young adult males and females 18 – 28 who are struggling with a variety of social, cognitive, learning and processing issues such as Autism Spectrum Disorders, Nonverbal Learning Disabilities, Verbal Learning Disabilities and more significant executive function, impulse control and attention deficit disorders. Vantage Point camps are co-educational groups for adolescents whose cognitive and learning issues are a primary contributor to their emotional, behavioral, academic, social and family difficulties". My purposes in creating a brief transparent account of these experiences are as self-therapeutic as they are expository of largely unregulated institutions that operate on the fringes of the mental health industry in ways quite complementary to "pharmaco-capitalism". Camps of this sort are usually last-ditch efforts pushed by mental health professionals on desperate parents after conventional therapies and medications do not produce desired results in their children (namely the normalization and repression of behaviors and identities deemed inappropriate). The following images are sourced from the documentation(carefully selected by Aspiro personnel) provided to parents of patients. These images where shared on an online stream throughout the internment period for parents to check their children's statuses and progress as constructed by Aspiro specialists. A month after my return, I was given a collection of these images on a disc.

When I arrived at the Salt Lake City airport I was met by two muscular young men deemed "transporters". The transporters promptly took to me to a medical center for examinations and followed up with a trip to "base camp" in Mt. Pleasant, where I was issued the standard clothing, equipment, and rations; they also confiscated any items I traveled with until deemed appropriate. They ran short on male shirts so I was given a few female tops after which I was mocked by these men due to my appearance (this was only within a few months of re-discovering my gender dysphoria). Outside the sun began to set over the pastoral setting, the silence was beginning to torment me. That evening I was taken to a temporary group, a group of "misbehaved" who did not suffer from mental illnesses, since the Vantage Point crew was in another part of the state at the time.

After a few days I finally grouped with the Vantage Point group and headed toward the planned destination of the week. Each week groups were taken to different locations in cramped vans throughout the state of Utah and returned to base camp once a week for food rations and medical examinations. Though parents were sold a "immersive" and "constant" therapeutic treatment, I only saw a therapist for less than an hour once a week. The "counselors" who presided over the groups the rest of the time were actually young, underpaid(they complained about this quite a few times), predominantly Mormon babysitters without any credentials in mental health professions(with some of them working at Aspiro straight out of high school). My assigned therapist had credentials in Wilderness Therapy from an anonymous Buddhist university and Art Therapy from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, a barely clinical background considering the range of conditions the program promises to treat. I was barred from two-way communications with anyone including my parents, and was only allowed to send letters to them read and approved by the therapist herself(I later found out that one of these was intercepted because it communicated the deleterious conditions I was in). These letters were scanned and included in the edited live-stream along with the rest of the images, depicting as idyllic and adventurous an experience as possible. I didn't smile much, but you can bet when I did it was caught on camera.

Everything we did was highly regimented and surveilled. Language was regulated, conversation topics carefully handled. I was constantly photographed, even while sleeping. We had to brush our teeth collectively in a circle. In order to prevent drug trading, counselors would carefully administer the medications of those who needed them, inspecting the mouths of those lucky enough to have the undersides of their tongues and sides of their gums assessed. I was "tarped" a few times, meaning two counselors slept on my sides over a tarp placed over me, that way if I seemed unstable or tried to escape it would firstly be very difficult and secondly, if I succeeded, would be noticed and subsequently restrained. Every morning we would wake up and be encouraged to write in our journals and have group discussions, noting our progress along the way. I felt like a celebrity, I was special.

Utah is a beautiful state. I was miserable against the stark backdrop of magnificent landscapes. The uncanny mixture of teetering madness and majestic vistas harkened to Romantic depictions of sublime. Dissociation kills the experience however, flattening everything before you into dull postcards that say "I was here"... but not quite there. I thought Utah would be a giant red-rock desert, but it was more of a melange of biomes. Depending on the location of the week, I would be exposed to a range humid mosquito-filled forests, desktop-background flower fields, and jagged mountain-range Native Reservations. I wanted to see Utah's famous rock arches, but I didn't have a chance to since Moab never landed as one of my scheduled locations. I still got my fair share of red-rock desert, one with an oasis-like stream the counselors dubbed "the Indiana Jones river". I still wanted my arches. Maybe I should have stayed longer...

No. It felt long enough. The days were slow, my body heavy. My large backpack didn't help much either...I remember having dreams about leaving within the second day. In various desperate frenzies I would beg, kick, and scream. I did not belong there, I filled myself with false hopes of leaving early. This was impossible, as any plea toward my parents would be censored regardless. Escapes were very common, but never successful, even that one time (according to legend) that a patient/client turned 18 during his treatment. Of course one could walk away, but where would one go looking and smelling like a vagabond without any cash, cell-phone, and sense of direction in an unfamiliar topography? There was no way out but death, and surely enough I attempted suicide various times. Hanging from fastening cords, cutting wrists with sharp shale-like desert rocks. One hikes precipices seemed very enticing. One time in the shit-van during our voyage to the week's target destination we were very close the edge of a cliff, the dirt path swaying us in unexpected directions. I prayed that we would veer off into the depths of that picturesque ravine. "Let's end this cinematically" I thought, envisioning a charred, crumpled van with the remains of adolescent boys. We actually came close to being swept by a landslide in another instance, missing it by a few minutes. By the time we arrived at the destroyed road it was too late, the lovely aftermath of fellow motorists salvaging their partially submerged SUV.

I was asked by various other patients if I was "gooned". I learned that this meant abducted by hired escorts and taken to the airport. It became clear to me why the transporters appeared so Herculean. Many patients would be woken up by visitors in the middle of the night and instructed to pack, without any warning whatsoever. Some were coerced in different ways. One boy recounted about how his father told him they were going "camping". They both went to the airport with their individual luggages in hand when his father suddenly pauses while nearing the security checkpoint. Two escorts appear and his father notified him that he isn't going with him. Many of us were notified a few days prior. I myself was told by my parents a week before. I adamantly refused to go, I even threatened with running away. When I told my parents they could not force me to go, and that there was nothing they could do about it, they responded with silent nods, seemingly assured that this was not the case. I knew that this treatment meant trouble and would worsen my condition rather than improve it(which turned out to be more than true). Eventually I caved and agreed against my will, with a doubtful sliver of hope that this treatment might improve me. When I learned about the escorts at the camp, I realized that any continued resistance would have meant getting "gooned" and going anyways, albeit in a more traumatic fashion.

Nights always brought a certain level of calm to my tattered soul. Maybe it was a sense of defeat or exhaustion. Maybe it was the stars I could see in the dark state of Utah. One night in one of the darkest territories in the country, a petrified forest in the desert, I got to experience a significant meteor shower. Some of the meteors would explode and fragment, lighting up the sky and rocky landscape like storm-less lightning. It was beautiful, it calmed me. I thought about the abyss these alien showers came from, my inconsequentiality outside of my immediate experience. I felt depersonalized, but in an improved way. My nights were filled with dreams. One of the hippy counselors gave me a New Age explanation to this phenomena. He spoke of electromagnetic circuits forming between the earth and my body as I slept close it, separated only by a thin mat and sleeping bag. He took my aside after one of my psychotic breakdowns in which I violently threw my pregnant therapist's water bottle and dented it (She feared I would hurt her and her baby, I was insane but not a barbarian. What the hell was she doing out there anyway?). He was very soft spoken, a real flower child. He talked about energy flows and the spirit of nature. He told me I had power, but didn't know how to control it, like an untamed stampede of horses. He told me if I worked on it, that I could achieve clairvoyance. Unfortunately, no amount of hocus-pocus and wishful thinking relieved me of my trauma.

The other kids in the group came from varying backgrounds. We all had our own stories to tell, some of us shared some of us didn't. With some of them, I couldn't even tell why they were there, with others it was obvious. Many had a lot to prove, fabricating their pasts in the process. One kid told us he drove a Mustang GT back home and even lied about his age. He told us about all the hardcore things he did, the fights he won, the things he stole. He was outed eventually, and forced to apologize in a group talk session. I made good friends with a very amiable programmer from the Bay Area. He spoke very formally, and appeared to be a genius, intimate friends with notorious hackers from all over the country. We agreed that the program was worsening our conditions and that our parents acted out of desperation. Another boy described being institutionalized at a prior time for being defiant to his parents. He was released after being evaluated by psychiatrists that concluded he didn't have any problems. He seemed quite bright and healthy to me. Wealthy parents can afford to relocate their children against their will as they please, under the banner of ameliorating treatments and outdoor adventures, sometimes indefinitely. I knew of one very young autistic child in the younger Vantage Point age-group who's stay kept being extended. He was there for over 17 weeks and counting. I left before he did, wondering when he would finally go home.

Not all of us went home. According to my peers, about 75% of Aspiro attendees end up at one of the many special boarding schools connected to the organization. When I found this out I almost lost my mind. My parents told me I would be back once my month was up, but considering the deceit and coerciveness that colored this entire process, I had my doubts. After all, it wouldn't be the first time in my life there was an attempt to place me in a special school. Goodbyes were always bittersweet, with some people happy to leave to their previous homes, and other to their new "homes". This would only be a relief for those who had violent or treacherous home lives previous to their abductions. One guy, who knew he needed to be away from drugs back in his Boston home, complied with his fate. He still took his pharmacologically sanctioned drugs of course, and his mood stabilizers gave him a lazy eye and vacant gaze. His last words to me were "Bro, it was really nice meeting you. At first I thought you were gay but you're cool. I don't know, you just looked really clean and pretty". Oh the irony. He left me with that and I pondered my own fate, wondering what life in boarding school would be like. I expected the worst.

Conflict would often break out. Each group its own special kind of pressure cooker. Some kids were particularly violent, rowdy, and offensive. Some of us were quite the opposite: hypersensitive, easily hurt, and vulnerable. I vacillated between the two, vacillating between a teary catatonia and explosive rage. Many of us victims of bullying back at home merely transplanted oppressors while others became the bullies themselves, finding that they were dominant in a group of broken, debilitated people. Some were notorious for their brutality, as in one kid with Oppositional Defiant Disorder(ODD, imagine that!) who compulsively(and at times to his own dismay) picked a fight at any moment possible. Some of us couldn't direct our violent energy toward each other, and would explode in the middle of the night after being bitten by one too many mosquitos. Racism, homophobia, sexism were out and abound. A musical chairs game: Who will blow their fuse today?

Did I mention Utah is a freak state? Weird geography, weird wildlife, weird people. A red state. One time we crossed through Provo, a medium size city home to the Latter-day Saint run Brigham Young University and a burgeoning high-tech industry. It had a bizarre modern single-spire temple, perfectly fusing its seemingly disparate famed sectors. In a smaller town we passed through, a counselor asked for directions from an elderly man in overalls (who too closely resembled Stinky Pete from Toy Story 2). He replied with an "over yonder" and pointed toward the horizon. For whatever reasons, this dowdy character seemed impressionable. Residents dressed conservatively, some Mormon pilgrims and students from all over the world (I bet you haven't seen a Korean Mormon before). We weren't allowed to interact with town and city dwellers, to do so would be a serious infraction against the treatment program. Of course, we wouldn't want to raise suspicions in the local residents.

Sexuality was the insidious undercurrent to the experience. There were talks about masturbation and ensuing disavowals of homoeroticism. No homo. The boys worshipped the few women(primarily counselors or those from the girls groups we saw at base camp) they came in contact with. One time, the ODD guy made a disgusting comment about our counselor's "fire-crotch" and had to apologize to everyone in the group about the comment. How embarrassing... Sexuality was to be toned down, all our hormones were presumably raging at the time. Any hints at intimacy between group members (I would eventually be moved into a co-gendered group during the final week) was to be closely monitored and suppressed. I kept to myself and retired to my dreams and fantasies, but how could I have kept my eyes off of that lovely boy from North Carolina who looked like a superior rendition of Shia LaBeouf(he was in the first temporary group and unfortunately not in any of my photos)?

Image really was everything. As aforementioned, an online stream of photos, scanned letters, and therapist commentary maintained parents at ease back at home. All photos taken of my treatment resemble the branding and presentation schemes of the company website. Images harkened to the spirit of nature, promising the reinvigoration of your troubled child; therapy and a countryside. You would be fed wholesome organic food which patients prepared for themselves. You would burn sage bundles, undergo an alchemical resurrection. Humorously enough, the pastoral character of the landscapes in these images appears as if it could come straight out of an anti-depressant ad. The program fuses the new-age spirituality, health-craze, and nostalgia rife in our milieu with the mental institution. A truly neoliberal upgrade from the aging vestiges of the Great Confinement.

As it was all occurring, it was too overwhelmed to understand the implications of what I was experiencing. One of the overly cheerful and apparently veteran counselors commented one night in the something along the lines of "wow guys, isn't this surreal? Like all of a sudden you are in another state on this adventure? You're experiencing all these changes and this isn't an experience a lot of get to have". Yes it was surreal. I couldn't comprehend how it was legal or even possible to non-consensually exercise control over a minor. How a therapeutic institution, that was supposed to "help me" controlled every facet of my life for an extended period of time. I wondered how they got away with the things they did. Why would my parents relegate this much control over their children to strangers in another state, strangers working for profit?

This experience revealed a complex meshwork of institutions, health practitioners, and other agents. Parents of patients would often be referred to "educational advisors" or "counselors" by psychologists and psychiatrists. These individuals would then present options for inpatient treatments, specialized schools, camps, and the like. The distinction between mental health programs and disciplinary programs(boot camps) is somewhat unclear. Many years before this all happened, the threat of boot camp was used against me often, in spite of the clinical knowledge of the professionals who assessed me with "Asperger syndrome-like" symptoms, a diagnosis that does not warrant the similar treatment as those deemed simply as "delinquent" or "aggressive". Interestingly enough, one boy in Vantage Point was there by judicial mandate. He was exempt from a sentence in a juvenile detention center if he was willing to be attend a therapeutic program. Thus these therapeutic programs are not entirely prescribed by mental health professionals, but also by the law as bailouts for those can afford such a program(the costs are beyond reach for most). It is juvenile hall for those who "plead insanity", so to speak. In my case, I was sent not because my behaviors were dangerous or illegal, but because I was suffering from a mental illness. I was effectively locked up in a wall-less, picturesque, mental institution. Though that was the extent of my experience, one must not forget how these programs are pipelined to boarding schools, the final destination for most patients.

I was fortunate. I was not shuttled off to a boarding school. By the time I was ready to leave, I was manic. I was excited, I could not sleep those last two nights. I stayed up, in the total silence of a mountainous forest, consumed in by the prospect of finally leaving; my delirium intermittently broken by the howls of coyotes. Morning came, the transporters arrived, heralded by "pick up your shit, you're going home". I picked up my shit, said my goodbyes and began the hour long hike towards the van. They had my belongings, I changed into my clothes in the dangerously speeding van (we were a bit late). I turned on my cellphone and received a month's worth of messages. The mania was still there, the trip was fleeting but not enough. I felt paranoia about missing the flight. An endless desert sped by me for over an hour, until finally I arrived at Salt Lake City. The longest and most arduous month of my life was coming to a close.

Screens looked strange, air conditioning felt even stranger. I was that smelly over-tanned kid on the airplane. I had huge scabbed gash across my left forearm. I must have looked quite suspicious. None of that mattered, what mattered was my survival, I made it out. The aftershocks persisted for months: flashbacks, existential dread, and more. I felt like I lost a part of me over there (I know, its cliche, but trauma really does that to some). I promptly began my senior year of high school as if nothing happened, though those close to me sensed something was different. I became hollow, even losing friends in the process. I do believe this experience contributed in my deferral of exploring my gender identity, as the experience overshadowed my discoveries of the previous months. I do believe that these programs benefitted a fraction of patients, but at the expense of those who don't. Even those who did benefit to some extent expressed hurt, including the employees of the program. Many were success stories who came back for more, this time as counselors. A good patient always comes back for more. Some would have breakdowns, at times their emotional states were indistinguishable from those of patients. In this sense, it really seemed that no matter the outcome, individuals were marked by this treatment for better or worse. I knew better, and wouldn't even consider going back to perpetuate this form of therapy. It took me years to arrive at a point where I could consider my memories with some understanding, able to process them, analyze the processes that led to this. My initial reaction was indignation at my parents for making the decision to send me there and I developed a bit of resentment that I am still working through. With time I have come to realize that the decision came from desperation, and the options provided by a pathological system of care to address that desperation. When pharmaceuticals and therapies fail to conform children to an education system that is itself broken and unable to accommodate difference, professionals and frantic parents turn to the practice of exile. Indeed the term "pharmacology" is itself derived from the Greek "pharmakos", the ritualistic sacrifice or exile by a sorcerers of a human scapegoat or victim (usually a cripple). Pharmaco-capitalism has returned to its origins, complementing biochemical strait-jackets with institutions of exile that surpass the traditional psychiatric ward in its modes of repression and control. Hospitals still exist, and they are as horrific as they have historically been, but these new privatized options present themselves as "softer" and even safer improvements of the asylum. Based on my experience, this is misleading. I believe that biopower has mutated toward less outwardly insidious yet increasingly profitable means of subjugating the mental ill. The clinic has merely torn down its walls and sublimated itself into personalized, branded forms. I survived this inhuman, monstrous new-age clinic. I almost lost my life in the process, even attempting suicide within months of my return, but I am here alive and healing. I carry my scars, within and without, and possibly will for the rest of my life. I'll be okay though, really.


torsdag den 22. maj 2014

Movie: Fix my kid

A movie is being made about one of the most damaging drug rehab programs which have ever existed:

Straight Incorporated and the copies named Alberta Adolescent Recovery Center (AARC) in Canada, Kids of Bergen County, KIDS of North Jersey, KIDS of El Paso, Kids of Greater Salt Lake, Kids Helping Kids, Pathway Family Center, LIFE Inc., Kids of Southern California, Phoenix Institute, Turnabout/Stillwater Academy, STEP Inc., Growing Together, Inc., Possibilities Unlimited, Life Line Inc., SAFE (Substance Abuse Family Education Inc.), ACE, Proctor Advocate, Yes Families, Second Chance, Operation Re-Entry all used variations of a 4 level system where the teenagers in the system were locked inside warehouses and homes of foster families until they had advanced enough through the system. And the methods used were bullying of those who were on the lower levels by those who had advanced in the system.

It is no surprise that the suicide rate among those who came in connection with this so-called drug treatment program is alarming high. The text below was found of the webpage of the movie.

A Letter From The Executive Producer

In 1983, when I was 13 years old, my parents made the decision to place my 15 year old brother Steve into a program called Straight Incorporated in Springfield Virginia. Straight Inc. was a “family treatment center” that was dedicated to preventing teenagers from using drugs and alcohol.

In the two and half years Steve was in the program, he lived in our house for no more than a total of two months. He stayed on first phase for the majority of his program, which meant while he wasn't in the Straight Inc. warehouse from 7am to midnight every day, he was sleeping at someone else's home -- we weren't allowed to know where he was being kept. At the time, that's all the information I was given about my brother.

Steve ran away from Straight seven times. He was brought back against his will each and every time. Finally, on his 18th birthday in September of 1985, he withdrew himself from the program. Steve was now homeless; neither parent would allow him to come home. He stayed on couches and in an abandoned apartment for the next 8 months. In June of 1986, he checked into a hotel in Springfield and jumped to his death from his 4th floor room. Confused and heartbroken, I was told it was because of his drug use (the same thing I had been told over and over again for the last 3 years before his death).

The years passed; then in 2001, I decided to Google "Straight Incorporated." Browsing the webpages I read stories of torture and abuse, even finding a couple of different websites that mentioned my brother. It was difficult enough to lose Steve, but to relive it all knowing he went through such horror was devastating. This was the most painful thing I have ever experienced in my life.

After more research, I came to find out that not only did places like Straight still exist, but many other abusive programs had popped up. It had become an industry.

My first thought was to put up a website about my brother's story to enlighten parents so they wouldn't make the same mistake. Then came the silver lining: I started getting emails from survivors of Straight who had known my brother. People who had amazing things to say about his courage, his strength, and his kindness. How he would stand up for people, knowing he would probably get hell for it. This was very bitter sweet, but I was glad to at least get to know my brother through the eyes of those who were being held captive with him. I also found out by talking to my brother's old friends that while my brother liked to party (like plenty of teens), he was in no way an addict (like I was told), and we had been lied to.

Prior to going into Straight I thought we had a happy family; 3 years later my father had gone, and my brother was dead.

Over the next few years, I met hundreds of survivors and have made some life long friends. During that time, myself, and my friends and fellow survivors Todd, and Alex, began talking about making a documentary about Straight. Fast forward several years, and here we are.

It is our hope that this film will not only promote healing among survivors, but will be used as a tool to educate both parents and professionals about the truth of this industry, as well as to encourage people to speak out and help put a stop to the needless abuse and torture children are experiencing every day in this country and around the world.

-Kelly Matthews

The webpage of the movie

søndag den 11. maj 2014

Movie: Just the Right Amount of Violence

The movie directed by Danish Jon Bang Carlsen provides us with a rare insight in the modern lives of idyllic, peaceful middle-class existence families.

We are shown how real-life transport firms works. The drama which in the future will result in trauma and broken child-parent relationships.

Just the Right Amount of Violence (Internet Movie Database)

søndag den 20. april 2014

Joanne S. at Second Nature Wilderness program

This testimony was found on webpage where both parents and teenagers could provide their experience of their use of the services the program offers. All rights goes to the original author known as Joanne S.

2 N C or 2nd nature cascades is a fraudulent organization based on exploiting parents fears for their children and teenagers. They charge a lot of money and hire staff with minimal amounts of training and motivation.

They supply the cheapest food possible. Teens are forced to eat oats and pita bread every day. Teens who attend this death-march based money scam, often leave with more issues than when they got there, which is the reason 2nd nature cascades ALWAYS suggests after care such as residential treatment centers. Not only does second nature pretend that they help people they have the gaul to call it a therapeutic wilderness program.

That would make sense if they had real therapists in the field, not therapists in training with sleeves of tattoos. The staff not only is undertrained they do not deserve to do what they do. Often teens will be made fun of and have their buttons pushed by the staff. The staff needs to have a better screening process and also first aid knowledge.

Sanitary conditions are abominable. Samples of MRSA and staff bacteria were found in the campsites. Not only do they keep teens malnourished so they don't have the supplies or energy to run away from the hellish camp site, they make teens march up to 11 miles at a time in the heat with heavy packs on their back and very limited sometimes no water.


søndag den 13. april 2014

Justtony at Second Nature Wilderness program

This testimony was found on a message board. All rights goes the original author.

I am not officially against psychiatry YET...key word yet, becaus I dont know all the facts and I am posting even this on pure suspicion and fear. Fear that I have been messed with beyond repair.

I was a troubled youth, i can admit that. My folks split up when I was young. I was raised by a single-mother who had alot of issues and was always bringing different ppl in the house for personal reasons. We also were not that well off financially, but my mom later got a govt. job and that changed 4 the better a little bit.

She also went from secular to devout christian in a matter of months and next thing I know my butt is stuck in christian camps and church schools learning how evil I was and how imperfect I am. I was also taught a bunch of #######4 morals that had nothing at all to do with Christianity, which ###$ me up alot honestly cause it was soo confusing.

Anyways I got kicked out of alot of schools because i couldnt tolerate verbal persecution and other injustices brought upon me so I chose to fight people. And one thing my hockey playing taught me, I was a great fighter and to this day have lost few, and have fought MANY. I also joined in with a "sub-culture" as my parents and teachers refferred to it, and began partying and drinking yadda yadda, honestly it was all typical teenage behavior blown out of proportion by a confused Christian parent with an even stricter Christian husband, who became known as my sted-father, who I suspect truly cares little about me and my siblings. And because the wilderness program I was basically kidnapped and taken to against my will was run by former military personnel, and he is a retired lt. colonel, I suspect it was his idea, not my REAL parent's.

Anyways I was out in the Utah dessert at a wilderness camp called 2nd Nature, based in Duchesne, for 4 months and did a month in "after-care" but I got kicked out. I was supposed to do 9 months but I said "###$ that" and caused a little arguement and got expelled. But while I was out there, we were over 50 miles away from ANY civilization and miles from any road. We had nothing except hiking and camping gear and ate dehydrated $#%^ the whole time except for a few special occasions, that werent too special if u ask me. They evaluated our every move, we were forced to write daily journal entrys and do psychological excercises and group therapy. We had NOTHING from the modern world, and were not kept up to date on anything, not news, not date, not even time of day.

Now that Im back, I am SOOO different. I used to have friends and do ALOT of sports and activities. I could get along fairly well with others and loved to be "nice" to other ppl. NOW, my life sucks! It already sucked but now it is living hell. I obsess about the smallest $#%^. I cant even hold a decent conversation with my own family, let alone one of my old friends. I feel brainwashed, I feel they told me a great big lie that I cant even re-call. All I know is now the world is crashing down on me, and it wasnt before I went. I have even heard ppl from my group tell me they put $#%^ in the water we drank out there, which they forced us to drink nearly a Gallon per day to "avoid dehydration." I was not depressed b4 I went out there, now I am, and was prescribed Lexapro which I took for about a month, hated it, and quit cold turkey. $#%^ is worse than it has ever been tho. Everything I say offends ppl, Im arrogant, Im provocative. I feel like $#%^, my family and friends hate me, and I feel crazy... Why all this $#%^ happen after 2nd Nature. How could my own parents do this $#%^ to me? Am I really such a failure? Did I really deserve to be put through this living hell? everyday is torture, what do I do? And can I reasonably place any blame on 2nd Nature, or is that just looking for an excuse? I dont even know anywore!!!!


søndag den 30. marts 2014

Petition: Outlaw the use of private "escorts" to transport minors to residential treatment centers

Text from the petition page:

Before dawn when I was 14 years old, three large men burst into my room while I was sleeping. As my parents watched, they pulled me from my bed, forced me to get dressed, handcuffed me, and dragged me from my house.

I had committed no crime; these men were not law enforcement agents. Nor was this a kidnapping. My parents had hired these men at the suggestion of a private residential treatment center for the purpose of transporting me to the facility by surprise. These men were professional "escorts", making a living legally abducting minors at their parents request, often transporting them across state lines, as happened to me. I was taken from my home in Florida by plane to Georgia, and then to Texas, on to Nevada, and finally by car to a facility in Utah, where I stayed temporarily before then being transported out of the United States altogether to a facility in another country. This traumatic and dangerous practice continues today, and untold thousands of children are transported in this way every year to facilities across the U.S. and in other countries.

The U.S. Congress has the power and a moral obligation to outlaw this practice. The Commerce Clause of the U. S. Constitution grants Congress the power to outlaw the use of "escorts" specifically and the interstate transportation of minors for psychiatric or behavioral treatment generally, and Congress ought to do so. This practice is dangerous. In many cases, children are tasered, pepper-sprayed, or "restrained" during transport, which can and often does result in broken bones or other serious injuries. Even in cases where children are not physically harmed, this kind of trauma often causes psychiatric issues such as PTSD- issues that can affect these kids for the rest of their lives and hamper the abilities to be healthy and contributing members of society. If parents need help getting noncompliant children into treatment facilities, this function ought to be carried out by trained law enforcement professionals who will be accountable for injuries or mistreatment, and the facility the children are taken to should be located in their own home state.

A society can be fairly judged by how well it protects its most vulnerable members. Our children are our most important and greatest national resource, and ought to be treated as such. Protect our children. Outlaw private "escorts" and the interstate transportation of minors NOW.

The original petition (

søndag den 16. marts 2014

destinypersonified at Wingate Wilderness program

I voluntarily chose to attend Wingate in Utah at the age of 17, under the impression that it was some sort of academic program. I did not know anything about Wingate's true nature. We were forced to live in the desert, drinking rationed water and rationed food. No extra food was given if food went missing, was stolen, or went bad. Almost every day we were made to awake just before dawn and go on forced marches for most of the day, sometimes even hours past sundown.

If any resisted, they were incapacitated and medicated by the staff. If anyone attempted to leave the group without permission, they were similarly prevented. In order to defecate, we were forced walk a designated distance away from camp in order to dig a hole. If we stopped yelling our name, they would assume that we had begun to run away, and would immediately begin searching for us, subdue us, and transport us back to camp.

We were exposed to all sorts of cultish, pseudo-religious moralizing propaganda and brainwashing, forced to read insipid packets and books, made to participate in absurd and childish games and activities, all with an underlying strange mysticism about need for change and repentance. All contact to the outside world was through letters. One is not allowed to receive a letter for one week. One is not allowed to send a letter for two weeks. By the time the opportunity arrives, most are already broken. Even if one tried to communicate the situation to their parents, they would be disciplined, and the letter censored, if necessary. The 'therapists' who met with us once a week were our parents' only source of information. Part of the efficacy of the brainwashing was that one had to convince their therapist of their commitment to the 'program', which would (putatively) expedite their graduation from the 'program' and return home.

Most of the victims I was grouped with had been forcibly transported there by people called "Transporters", or "goons". "Goons" were large muscular thugs who would, with the parents' consent, overpower the victim, bind him, and force him into a van, where he would be driven across state lines into Utah.

I met another graduate later who had managed to escape Wingate by running during the night to a country road, and hitchhiking to Los Angeles. The goons managed to track him down a month later and returned him to the camp.

Wingate broke me down and destroyed me. I have never felt more paranoid, more anxious, and more powerless than I have during those endless parched marches through the Utah desert. I am currently taking antidepressants, and took to using alcohol and cannabis to cope emotionally. I sympathize with your position and wish you the best in life.


søndag den 16. februar 2014

McNuggies thoughts about the future after a stay in SUWS

This testimony was made by a former client of SUWS. All rights goes to the original author.

It's been 6 months since I came back from my experience at SUWS of the Carolina's. A hard 6 months to be exact. While there are far worse camps and schools to be sent to, SUWS was able to break me and attempt to "rebuild" me as how they think a human should be. Most of the members of the group I was with are now in TBS, which I luckily worked my way out of.

When I went to SUWS I weighed 155 lbs at 5'11. Currently I weigh 130 lbs at 5'11. That doesnt seem healthy of course but I cant even force my self to eat at this point. Thats only one issue SUWS has left me with. I picked up bad habits that I didn't have beforehand; such as cutting (before SUWS I had never attempted self harm in that manner) ,smoking (which I was able to stop), and binge drinking.

Other side effects of SUWS include what I think is PTSD where I have night terrors of being sent away again or waking up in the woods. It used to be every night and now its about 5/7 days a week. Since I get these dreams that wake and keep me up I am constantly tired. Sometimes I can't even stay away from home because my anxiety will go up about not being in my zone, which didn't happen before. And again with my eating, I can't eat certain foods such as peanut butter anymore because it gets me thinking of what happened over the summer which makes me sick and agitated.

One of the worse post-SUWS side effects is my constant apathetic attitude to literally everything. I'm a senior in high school who wanted to go to college right after high school. Those dreams have disappered because I can't get myself to care about my future. I only ever want to lay in bed. The lack of motivation doesn't stop there either, my school grades are falling and any activity I enjoyed pre-SUWS is impossible to start.

I've been to a therapist for the past 5 months after the one who sent me to SUWS said that I couldn't be her client considering the fact I wasn't going to boarding school. Therapy is not working it seems. I am way more depressed than ever before yet not suicidal. Yet I could care less what happens to me.
My parents have blamed my lack of motivation, tiredness, and lack of appetite on me 100%. If I try to bring what they sent me to over the summer up in a conversation they automatically say "We did it to save your life." But was it to save my life for my sake, or extend my suffering so they wouldn't feel guilty if something did happen? In all honesty I want to take legal action against anyone I can about the traumatic experience I went through and the side effects of that. Any advice on that (or anything) would be nice.

TL;DR: SUWS has made my life collapse in on itself harder than before, my parents won't hear me out, I'm blamed for every mistake

How can you comfort the author. To let the client know that the clients life wasn't lost like two teenagers who died in the program?


mandag den 27. januar 2014

An Industry in Need of Legal and Regulatory Oversight

The Michigan Child Welfare Law Journal published an article covering wilderness therapy and boarding schools focusing on behavior modification. The article - well documented - pictures the industry as an industry in huge need of both regulation and oversight.

Children die in wilderness programs. Others return home traumatized as result of their forcefully removal from their home. While few return home better suited for the harsh nature of life in general most return home with additional issues to struggle with.

Regulation and oversight has never been more needed. The politicians need to take action and ownership to spare the families and teenagers from further tragedies.

Wilderness Therapy Settings:
An Industry in Need of Legal and Regulatory Oversight
(The Michigan Child Welfare Law Journal, by Daniel Pollack, Khaya Eisenberg, and Katie M. Shipp)