A Summer Camp Of Horrors: What Happens To ‘Troubled’ Teenagers Who ‘Need A Quick-fix’

Posted on July 16, 2015 in Health and Life, Mental Health, Staff Picks, Taboos

By Reshma Valliappan:

Summer camps are often a thrilling time for kids. It’s those fun moments where a teenager gets to discover their wild side in the wilderness. Every camp specializes in certain outdoor activities based on where they are located. It could be trekking, climbing hills, kayaking, camping, singing songs around a fire, telling ghost stories, getting a crush, learning to cook without a stove. These are just a few.

Image source: Reshma Valliappan
Image source: Reshma Valliappan

However, there are camps that offer the complete opposite. These are basically for troubled teenagers who otherwise spend most of their regular school days doing all of the above while their friends are studying. The camps meant for these kids are devoid of animals and wildlife. There is no climbing, rafting, telling stories, listening to songs and music, or any emotional connections which would be allowed. They are called boot camps or correctional camps. Although they aren’t necessarily named so. Correctional camps are used for many purposes. Highly influenced by military training techniques – some even rely on “quick-fix” solutions. Children who are sent here are considered “lost cases” and parents feel that they have lost all control over these kids. In order to regain control of their children – these subtle named camps work with teenagers using behaviour modification. If you have studied psychology, in those wonderful stupid books of yours, thinking a little bit of Pavlov and Watson makes you an awesome two faced helper – think again.

As a teenager, I had run away from home and begun cutting myself at a very young age. Added to this list was my self-destructive behaviour and recklessness. This topped up with the layer of being tomboyish, playing basketball and being a flirt at a very young age qualified me as a highly appropriate candidate for one such camp. The most important trigger here was when a psychiatrist told my parents I was a boy stuck in a girl’s body. This jolted the daylights out of my parents, putting them into a crisis every day when they saw their daughter showing all the traits the shrink had told them. No surprise that many other parents were in the same boat, as it must have been their collective helplessness that had them throw us in the same camp.

I saw kids walking in, being held tightly by their parents. Some had this fear on their faces which made them look as red as tomatoes, almost like they had been crying on their way here or had most probably been slapped to get here. Mom said, “We”ll see you on the last day” Mr.Crater Face made it very clear to us that there was no escape. While he was introducing himself, I clearly remember how he glanced at some of the boys in the room. He picked on them and told them their pretty faces weren’t going to get them anywhere in life. I was put in the first group and he called us the “difficult attention seeking, good for nothing trouble makers”. As he approached one kid after the other, we heard crying. Some kids had started howling even. Every night we were watched and, we watched. And every night one of us tried comforting the other but simply could not.

The next day he stood and stared at me. Then asked me to make a circle and asked, “Are you a girl or a boy?” “I am a girl” “Really?” “Yes” He asked me to circle again. This time I saw my roommate in tears. I couldn’t understand why though. He made me make another circle and said, “I don’t see anything on you that says you are girl.” He looked at the others and made me stand in different positions.

Does she look like a girl to you?” He asked again, “Where does it show that she is a girl? Does she look like a girl from the back? If you saw her from the back (he made me stand with my back facing them) would you think she is a girl or boy?” They replied, “Boy”. My lips clamped together and I had no answer when he asked me, “Are you a girl or a boy?”

What really happened in between those days are better left forgotten. I don’t know where the rest of the kids are. I don’t know if they even survived after that. We were turned into robots in just one week. (Taken from Fallen Standing; My Life As A Schizophrenist)

I don’t know if I should be happy to be alive or grateful to have forgotten other days of the camp or blessed to be able to tell my story after 20 years. My 15 year old self is still stuck somewhere and I’ve let them both (the girl and the boy) live through me because there can be no other way.

I still do wonder what happened to those kids from my camp. I wonder if they’ve grown as I have. Or if they took their own lives. Or have they just remained robots without any memory. I know Mr.CraterFace is a big name now in my country. I did google him. He is on Facebook spreading the message of love on large platforms. I think I will be blessed if our paths never cross because my 15 year old self might do something I wouldn’t want.

There is nothing I can do to undo anything but only know my purpose and find my own meaning in life. I can only hope that every parent who feels they are losing control of their teenager reads this. Many people don’t even know such camps exist and many parents don’t know what happens in them. It always is too late by the time they do know. We only hear about stuff like this in movies – but movies are based on many true accounts. Every reckless, troubled, disturbed teenager is already living their lives as free spirits. We are called rebels because you expect us to fit into the framework as other children do. Don’t try to correct us because we will grow up hating ourselves or you. Change the social constructs around teenagers and children. Take out time to know the person inside.

For wannabe psychologists who think they know better, every ‘research’ out there on classical conditioning, is a child’s life. Every theory based on psychological experiments cost a child his or her emotional and sexual life. Every label you think you want to use on us, to enable us, to understand our conditions better gives someone else the power to continue such behaviour modifications. There is no monitoring system for the human mind and the abuse against it.

The field of psychology and psychiatry needs an entire course on developing a conscience before learning anything else.

I only wish for humans to develop a collective conscience and humanity.

This article was originally published here.