140. SUWS

SUWS is one of the oldest wilderness program. For many years it was not marketed as therapy but more like an outward bound program. Around 1980 the boot camp styled way of running a wilderness program was introduced. SUWS followed the market trend.

In 1985 a boy died during a hike showing that wilderness programs are dangerous. Today we know that he was just one of many who didn’t return home alive. It doesn’t sound like fun being a teenager in such programs.



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About jack1993

Gymnasieelev bosiddende i Aalborg

3 responses to “140. SUWS”

  1. sage says :

    I went through this program and it has stayed with me forever. I had not realized how much it scarred me until I found this and a few other things. I buried it, I guess. Thanks for letting people know.

  2. patchespal says :

    I was there in 84. It was hell. I was determined to survive and keep my sense of self intact. I was called a freak and was treated with disrespect and disdain. And here’s a funny thing I have yet to read about SUWS Idaho anywhere: My counselors were all Mormons, and from what little I can remember about them I remember having their religion and politics pushed on me. Luckily for me I decided early on that they were of limited intelligence and insignificant, which benefited me as they had no influence on me personally. After arguing and rebelling initially, I was told they could keep me there as long as they wanted and what do you know- by morning I was a whole new girl. Angelic, loved Jesus, feminine, etc. So fortunate I happened to be blessed with natural acting ability.

    They wrote gushing letters home to my parents about my big turnaround. I was a whole new child! I would no longer be the embarrassment. All my cool clothes were thrown out. All my old punk rock flyers (collector’s items now, I’m sure) were tossed. They couldn’t wait to meet their new daughter. Unfortunately for them I came back with a stronger sense of self, yet even more determination to stand my ground, and angry resentment that they were willing to trade me in for a less eccentric model.

    In the meantime, we were given no water, hiked up to 17 miles in a single day due lack of suitable water which we weren’t’ allowed to carry – I threw up blood from my throat drying out, we drank water green and chunky with cow feces (with an iodine tablet mixed in,) had to strain water through filthy bandanas to avoid tiny poisonous leeches, etc. I remember sitting in a stream for hours after witnessing one of my co-hikers innocently napping while clusters of horse-flies congregated in her buttcrack. I remember our last stretch- a 3 day solo – being so weak I could only lay by a stream wrapped in a blanket, hearing one of my co-hikers screaming “We’re all gonna die!!!” in the far distance. Poor kid, he was the only one gung-ho in the beginning, but was a little meek and nerdly, and was scapegoated and ridiculed by everyone – even more so than myself. I still worry about that guy – he really cracked. His name was Greg and I didn’t realize that was the kid’s name that passed. I truly hope his parents didn’t send him back. 😦

    • Kathy says :

      I was there in 1984 as well. I believe that was the year, because I was 15. It was the most horrific experience of my life. I am forever scarred, just like you.
      I will never forget my experience, and still to this day hold a bit of a grudge against my parents for taking away a piece of me that I will never get back.
      I 3 day solo was such a traumatic experience that no 15 year old girl should ever have to go through. Making my friend jump in the lake fully clothed, with her hard hat, boots, etc on in the pouring down rain and make her continue to work her 8 hour shift brought tears to my eyes and I will have that image forever stained into my brain.

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