“treatment center for kids” – Let me share my story about that. My name is Mathew. I’m now 23 years old. Growing up, I was in and out of group homes and treatment centers. When I was 14 years old, I was held hostage in my classroom by my teacher.  It was 3pm – time to go. As I was trying to leave, my teacher pulled me and cornered me in. DCS then came in with my great grandmother. I was like, “what the fuck is happening?”

The SRO  officer put me in the back of the squad car and took me to DCS facility. From there, they took me to a Christian-based group home. While there, I was bullied. I was harassed by my roommate at the time. He literally pulled his thing out in front of me trying to make me do things with him. I refused and his response was to slap me. He went to bed as if nothing happened. When I later brought it up to the counselors they said, “What do you expect us to do about it?”

Shortly after that, I tried to hang myself.  In response, they sent me to a mental hospital called Peninsula. I was there for 6 days before they sent me back to the same goddamn group home. This time I remained there for 2 days before I ran off. After they caught me, they once again sent me back to Peninsula.

This time, I was there for 9 days before I got out. Instead of sending me back to the same group home, I was sent to a place called Helen Ross Mcnabb. I was initially cool with it because it was located in my hometown. However, things quickly went downhill. One morning, I woke up throwing up and having diarrhea. I initially thought it was a stomach bug but it kept getting worse and worse. They eventually took me to some doctors that initially diagnosed me with something called fifth disease. Fast-forward to about a month later: I was diagnosed with liver cirrhosis and ulcerative colitis.

The nurse had been swearing up and down that I had been making it all up and that it was all in my head. She was begging the treatment team not to let me go on any more home passes. They still let me go. When I was on a home pass, I was approved to go back to my great-grandmother. The reason I was taken in the first place was due to an allegation that my uncle was taking pills in the home. There I was sick as could be. I was throwing up so much that I couldn’t move and my complexion was yellow. Outraged, my grandmother called them and cussed them. I didn’t wanna go back to the ER, but I reluctantly went. They sent me to a children’s hospital in Nashville where the medical staff discovered my diagnosis of liver cirrhosis and ulcerative colitis. From there my health started to improve.

Things started to get bad again around this time. My great-grandmother was exhibiting the beginning stages of dementia. I couldn’t leave her alone as she would swear she’d hear and see people that weren’t there. There were times I left in the middle of the school day due to her calling me upset and freaking out. I would go to check on her only to find my grandmother crying and no one else there. From there, I opted not to go to school so I could care from my grandmother.

Unfortunately, DCS got called again due to my truancy. I decided that I was not going to go through that again so I tried overdosing. My grandmother told them about my attempted overdose which caused me to be sent to a place called Oak Plains Academy. That is where I truly hated life.

I got harassed and bullied because I was the youngest one there. Some of the people I was mixed in with shocked me. For example, my roommate was there for raping his sisters. I was put in the same room with him and the excuse that was given to me by staff was that it was because I wouldn’t bully him. I flipped out multiple times. The food was horrible. I was made to shower with other teens without any staff supervision.  I was often punched in my chest area and slapped. I brought up the bullying to staff and they said they would look into it. Nothing was done.

While there, I had a few anxiety attacks due to my stress about my great-grandmother and her health. As a reaction to my anxiety attacks, I was thrown onto the floor and had three staff members lay on me. One put his elbow to my throat so I couldn’t breathe. As a result, I was sent to “suspension” which meant they place you in a room with other people that were in suspension. One time, a kid was mad about being in there and grabbed me. He ended up ripping my shirt off.

Finally, my great-grandmother signed me out. I was out for only two days before a DCS worker came to my house to tell me that I had a choice: I could either return to Oak Plains Academy or submit to being a ward of the state until I was 18. I was 16 years old at the time.  I returned to Oak Plains Academy and this time DCS got a court order to prevent my great-grandmother from being able to sign me out.

When I returned, I was abused by staff for leaving in the first place. One staff member said in front of everyone that he was going to beat my fucking ass because I was crying when they brought me back. The school teacher, “Mr Sir,” would have “Movie Fridays” where he would bring movies and snacks to the classroom. One of the other kids brought me snacks – this caused “Mr. Sir” to flip over my desk and told me I didn’t deserve it because I was pathetic.

I finally got out and went back to my great-grandmother. Once again, things started to hit the fan real quickly. I started to miss school again due to my great grandmother’s dementia as it began to worsen. Once again, DCS was called. When I finally showed back up for school, DCS came into the classroom and told me to pack my things at home because I would be going to a foster home.  Instead, I went to the pharmacy. I had all my antidepressants refilled and I later took every single one of them. I ended up taking 60 pills in all. I remember I waking up, passing out, and throwing up over and over again. Finally, I passed out in the bathtub. I remember waking up to cops and passing back out again.

A couple of days later, I woke up in a hospital. They had sent me to Memphis to a place called BCIRT. I ended up eventually aging out of the system at 18.

To this day, I still have nightmares, PTSD, and abandonment issues. I started smoking to help cope but there are certain things that still trigger me. For example, at my old job, there is this gate that’s locked and has 2 dumpsters near it. It was the same exact gates and dumpster that were the rec yard at one of the facilities that I was at. I couldn’t go near them by myself without freaking out. Things still trigger me because of these places.