kids and adults hiking in Utah wilderness

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‘I was invalidated and neglected’: Survivor of teen wilderness therapy says he was told appendicitis was all in his head

'How could parents send their kids to such awful, abusive places?'


Tricia Crimmins


Posted on Mar 27, 2023

A survivor of wilderness therapy shared what he experienced at a troubled teen program, which included staff allegedly telling him that the pain he felt from appendicitis was in his head.

In a TikTok posted on March 1, Karan Narasimhan (@karanarasimhan15) says that he is “breaking code silence.” The term, often shared in hashtags, refers to the “social movement organized by activists and survivors of institutional child abuse to raise awareness of the problems” in and related to the troubled teen industry.

Troubled teen programs are residential group therapy programs marketed as a way to help struggling teens. The programs, however, have been widely criticized for their poor treatment of teens. In 2022, Paris Hilton revealed that she had been abused physically and sexually when she was taken from her home and forced to attend Provo Canyon School in Utah.

Narasimhan says that in May 2022, his parents enrolled him in “wilderness therapy in Utah,” where the teen says he lived “in the middle of the Utah desert for three months” without consistent access to water. During those three months, Narasimhan says he developed abdominal pain.

He says although he was given Tylenol, he eventually collapsed from the pain. He says he was told, “Sometimes your head can tell you you’re in pain when you’re actually not in pain.”

“I was invalidated and neglected by my therapists and doctors,” the teen says in his TikTok. “I felt disgusted.”

Narasimhan says after three weeks of persistent pain, he was diagnosed with appendicitis. He says in his TikTok he got the medical help he needed but was not allowed to see his parents after surgery.

“This neglect and abuse faced in wilderness, not just by me but thousands of other children who attend wilderness [therapy], is the most disgusting, awful thing that could happen to any child,” Narasimhan says. “How could parents send their kids to such awful, abusive places?”

On Thursday, Narasimhan’s video had over 650,000 views.

@karanarasimhan15 #breakingcodesilence This is my story and I won’t stop until something is done about these programs! @breakingcodesilence ♬ original sound – Karan

Many commenters on Narasimhan’s video expressed solidarity with him, and some disclosed that they had been to wilderness therapy as well.

“What you endured should be illegal,” @lanadelbagel commented. “I’m glad you’re still here.”

“Continue to share your story,” @savvvy_saint wrote. “Never stay quiet.”

“I was sent to Utah in 2018,” @4deusa commented. “Thank you so much for speaking about this.”

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*First Published: Mar 27, 2023, 2:40 pm CDT