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Meg is the CEO of Unsilenced, a grassroots organization dedicated to speaking out against institutionalized child abuse in the troubled teen and youth mental health industry

After being sexually assaulted and expelled from school for drinking at 15, Meg’s parents spoke to an educational consultant and forcibly sent her to a children’s facility and boarding school. For the next 17 years, Meg dedicated herself to non-profit work before eventually coming to the realization that she had been abused and brainwashed throughout her time in the troubled teen industry. Having already done extensive work in the non-profit sector, Meg eventually founded Unsilenced and has been working since then to transform the troubled teen industry.

In conversation with Jay, they discuss her experiences, why parents and children fall victim to this industry, and how Unsilenced is forcing transparency into an industry where, not only is it not encouraged, but it literally doesn’t exist.

To learn more about Unsilenced and Troubled Teen industry, click here.


Meg Appelgate: It was scary to have no trust and it was scary to be treated like a criminal, you know, I felt like I had done something horribly wrong. 

Jay Ruderman: Hi, I’m Jay Ruderman, and welcome to All About Change, a podcast showcasing individuals who leverage the hardships that have been thrown at them to better other people’s lives.

[show intro]

Jay Ruderman: And today on our show, Meg Appelgate

Meg Appelgate: We’re talking about congregate care facilities that use behavior modification techniques to change children that is incentivized by profit.

Jay Ruderman: Meg is CEO of Unsilenced, a grassroots organization dedicated to speaking out against institutionalized child abuse in the troubled teen and youth mental health industry. 

Meg Appelgate: I was 15 when I was woken up in the middle of the night by these two people by my bed telling me that I’m gonna come with them whether I like it or not, and we can do it the easy way or the hard way. 

Jay Ruderman: After being sexually assaulted and expelled from school for drinking, Meg’s parents spoke to an educational consultant and forcibly sent her to a children’s facility and boarding school. 

Meg Appelgate: They market themselves as being the solution to a long list of problems. Everything from, oh, does your child have autism? Okay, O C d eating disorder, we will help you. In reality, that’s not how things are treated. They need to be very individualized.

Jay Rudeman: And while Meg and her family thought it had saved her life, eventually, Meg began to think differently. 

Meg Appelgate:  I went to her and I was like, “Did we, I’m kind of trying to think about Chrysalis. Were, were we abused?” and she responded, “God!  Finally!  

Jay Ruderman: And Meg realized that what she thought was therapy was    actually having a negative impact on her. 

Meg Appelgate: It was a way to break down every coping mechanism you have, every defense mechanism you have, so that you will follow Chrysalis rules so that you look to the people around you, to help build you back up again and, of course, when you get built back up again, it’s gonna be in the Chrysalis image.

Jay Ruderman: Meg eventually founded Unsilenced and has been working since then to transform the troubled teen industry

Meg Appelgate: It’s forcing transparency into an industry that not only is it not encouraged, but it literally doesn’t exist. 

Jay Ruderman: Meg Applegate, thank you so much for being my guest today and all about change. This is such an important discussion, , about the trouble teen industry. And I, I’m really looking forward to, digging down with you on this. 

Meg Appelgate: Thank you for having me.

Jay Ruderman: It’s my understanding that you went through a very traumatic event as a very young teen, and you entered into the troubled team industry. Could you tell us what happened?

Meg Appelgate: I had started to like not feel like I fit in anywhere and, and I was about 15 years old, probably 14 when it started. And. It started to just feel like I didn’t fit in any, in any groups. And so I started to try different behaviors to see if that fits my personality.

So I started to try out drinking, started to smoke pot, started getting interested in boys and, and having sex. And I think that I was really just searching for who I was. And what ended up happening is I one day left school and I was in ninth. And I loved campus and I had this guy buy us some beer, my friend and I, and we ended up subsequently being drugged by this guy and, going through a sexual assault. And when the school found out that I had drank during school hours, they expelled me.

And that was my last straw and they didn’t really know what to do and it was out of complete pure intentions that it happened. And you know, they researched what to do. They came across an education consultant and in conjunction with a neuropsychologist and a psychiatrist, they all decided that it was the best thing to send me away.

But I wasn’t aware of any of that going on behind the scenes. And I was 15 when I was woken up in the middle of the night by these two people by my bed telling me that I’m gonna come with them whether I like it or not, and we can do it the easy way or the hard way. And I really just felt that sinking feeling.

I actually thought I was being arrested, and I didn’t know what other scenario would I be told that I’m coming with them. And from movies, you just understand that it’s probably. Either a kidnapping or you’re going to jail. And they basically took me to the airport and I wasn’t allowed to know what was going, but they, I, I ended up in Idaho for the first six months at a lockdown, facility.

It was like a psychiatric facility and. it was full of really, really troubled kids, like kids that legitimately needed help and I felt so outta place again, right? I was in the search to find out who I am and then I ended up just being more lost, and that’s how it all kind of started.

Jay Ruderman: When this all was happening, they were obviously talking to some professionals and the advice was to send you to this place called Intermountain Children’s Hospital in Idaho.

I assume that they were listening to people that they thought were giving them the best advice.

Meg Appelgate: Well, first of all, the quote professional that they really listened to was, is someone called an education consultant, and it’s kind of a misnomer. They’re really not usually any kind of professional in that realm. Really, when you look at it, they are really big referral systems to these programs within the troubled teen industry and if you go and analyze their businesses, a lot of ’em are getting kickbacks from the programs that they refer to. And many of them are referring to programs they’ve never even visited. So you right away have deceptive marketing in the fact that they’re saying these are the best places to have kids and they’ve never even been there.

Right. So the incentive from the very get go is, not great. And then you add in that when parents or caregivers are talking to these programs, they market themselves as being the solution to a long list of problems. Everything from, oh, does your child have autism? Okay, OCD? Eating disorder? We will help you.

In reality, that’s not how things are treated. They need to be very individualized. Then we have, a lot of fear-mongering and pathologizing adolescence and saying, oh, wow. Your, your kid, uh, is smoking weed. Well, if you don’t act quick, they’re gonna end up dead.

What I don’t think everyone realizes is that us survivors are not the only victims here.

It’s the parents, it’s the caregivers, it’s the decision-makers and communities that are being duped into thinking they’re helping kids, and really they’re playing into the abuse.

Jay Ruderman: And how are the connections being made?,How do these, essentially, consultants come into these situations?

Meg Appelgate: You’d be so surprised at actual professionals like psychiatrists, neuropsychologists that just don’t know that this is going on.

They know the base level that these places exist to help children and they have good results and things like that, but they, they don’t know the abuse that happens and you don’t really hear about it because up until recently, the media didn’t really pay attention to it either. So there’s a lot of miseducation out there and a lack of transparency and a lack of accountability and reporting that’s leading to all of those.

Jay Ruderman: Are there any facilities that are actually not bad facilities that, that actually help adolescents going through very difficult times? 

Meg Appelgate: When we’re talking about facilities that are considered what we call the troubled teen industry, we’re talking about congregate care facilities that use behavior modification techniques to change children that is incentivized by profit. We understand that sometimes institutions are needed if a, if a kid is in a crisis, if they’re attempting suicide or things like that, that a short stay at a hospital is, might be needed for that, for the duration of that crisis. The programs that we’re against are going to be the ones that oh, are saying to kids, you know, you’re struggling from depression.

Okay, we recommend you stay here from around one to two years. Right? That that’s not based in evidence at all. There are institutions or facilities that are targeted towards that crisis care that we think are okay because they are about helping versus keeping the kid there for as long as they can to get the money 

And I also think that there’s a lot of different community-based resources that are very underutilized and aren’t part of what we’re talking about either.

Jay Ruderman: So Meg, could you take me back – You’re 15 years old. You’re now in Idaho. What was it like when you arrived?

Meg Appelgate: I walked in, they took all my bags, they start searching for everything I own. looking for contraband.

They took my pencils even because I can’t have pencils cuz they’re scared of self-harm. I had to write home my first letter in a crayon because it was the only writing utensil I was allowed. And then they, they even took my shoes and this is in the middle of Idaho and winter. It was scary to have no trust and it was scary to be treated..like a criminal, you know, I felt like I had done something horribly wrong and that first re letter that I wrote in crayon actually was begging to go home and saying, I’m so sorry for anything I ever did. I promise I’ll never do it again. I don’t think you understand what this place is like. They aren’t, these other kids aren’t like me.

This I’m not supposed to be here. And you know, within the first couple days they misdiagnosed me as bipolar disorder and pumped me full of medications, like hardcore medications that adults get, and it was really just a lot of kids just super dosed up on medications.

Jay Ruderman: And in addition to the, the misdiagnosis and the medication , what type of professionals or what type of adults were you dealing with at the hospital.

Meg Appelgate: The staff, I remember just being really young. and like they were there. It was just a job like I don’t think many of them had any education in child development or abnormal psychology or anything that would help them with this position. It’s just a bunch of babysitters watching us. And there was a doctor. And he was weird. He was very strange. And I have letters that he sent my parents talking about my subset of bipolar disorder is really, really bad and I, they’ll have to watch me cuz I have a higher chance of ending up pregnant before I’m married and all this weird stuff that you would never hear a doctor saying.

I saw him maybe, maybe three or four times the entire time I was there. you really don’t get a ton of therapy for being something that’s like supposed to be helping you. And I honestly spent most of my time in the hospital on desk space, which is where I had to sit at a desk all day long and do assignments, and I had to draw from a hat whether I was allowed to program with the rest of the kids or socialize or go outside or go to the cafeteria.

So I spent so much time in isolation. How is that therapeutic?

Jay Ruderman: You left the. Intermountain Children’s Hospital and you ended up at a place called Chrysalis School 

Meg Appelgate: Mm-hmm. 

Jay Ruderman: And how did that transition happen?

Meg Appelgate: So I actually didn’t know that I would be going to Chrysalis until my parents like maybe three days before I was supposed to leave. and they said, by the way, you’re not going home. And I was like, what? And they’re like, yeah, you’re gonna be going to Northern Montana to a place called Chrysalis. And they just hyped it up to be what, you know, they were told by Chrysalis that they’ve got horses there and you get to go skiing in the winter and you get to, you know, go do all these fun things and hike and all this stuff.

And I was devastated. I was just absolutely devastated. 

Jay Ruderman: So I understand that when you were there, there was a practice called attack therapy. What does that?

Meg Appelgate: Yeah, so they called it circle. And Circle was their form of group therapy. And I say that in in quotes cuz all we really did was sit in a circle and someone would be in the hot seat. meaning they would get confronted by a peer, usually first a peer, and the owners, Kenny and Mary would kind of sit there and just watch all of the girls hold that girl, other girl accountable for some behavioral or like or mistake or something like that, that they’ve done.

And you would just hear echoes around the group, and then someone else would say something you did wrong. And then you’d just hear it over and over and over and over again, and it was. It was so hard to continually hear something that you’ve done wrong, like you end up having no, like self worth left, and the way that you view yourself is just like this failure.

You’re not allowed to talk back. You’re not allowed to cry. That’s seen as being defensive. Really, the only thing you can respond with is thank you for your feed back. It was a way to break down every coping mechanism you have, every defense mechanism you have, so that you will follow Chrysalis rules so that you look to the people around you, to help build you back up again and. Of course when you get built back up again, it’s gonna be in the Chrysalis image.

It’s gonna be in the Chrysalis Spirit, and it’s gonna be with your Chrysalis sisters. looking back at that with my experiences, it was very much so a cult and even the way that we, that we talked about ourselves, we were a Chrysalis family.

There’s nothing normal about that. It’s weird to look back because when I was in the moment, it didn’t seem weird. It didn’t seem weird because as a kid, you look to the adults in the room to say, is this weird? And if they’re cool with it, you’re like, oh, I guess this is it. This is life. You know? And you just accept it.


Jay Ruderman: It sounds like the, the lines of blur between parental figures and clinicians.

Meg Appelgate:That was something that I think they, they in my opinion, really purposefully drilled in because. They wanted it to feel like a family. I mean, we even called ourselves Chrysalis family. So when they would get upset or yell, well, your parents sometimes yell at you too, and you never really removed yourself and said, wait, whoa, whoa, whoa. Wait. Uh, their, therapists, they’re not our parents, they’re therapist. Is it okay for a therapist to yell you or to call you stupid or an idiot?

No, it’s not. And that didn’t really occur to me until I was much older and had my own children and thought, Hmm, would I want this to happen to my kids? No, absolutely not. So it created this separation that allowed it to go on for so long without even realizing it.

Jay Ruderman: So what makes a facility like this? in the troubled teen industry seem like a cult. Just help us understand that.

Meg Appelgate: It’s a lot to do with control and coercive control and the amount of mechanisms they put in place to control the information out and control the information in. What happens is if you’re like in a silo of information, and so the only information you’re getting is ones that they, one that they created. And so they are creating your own reality based on the values and morals that they want you to have. And by controlling out outside information, they’re able to create a barrier between you and reality. And so then you, as you grow older, and a lot of people are there for a long time, I was there for three years, so it becomes part of who you are. And all of a sudden you’re down the road. You realize you’re doing things that are kind of against what you would normally do, and you don’t even realize it’s against your morals or values internally because it’s this bounded choice. Y y you know, you, you don’t have the choice that you don’t know about, right? Because you’re built within this little system of Chrysalis.

Jay Ruderman: Is there a religious aspect to it?

Meg Appelgate: So a lot of times there are, yes. Even, even when they aren’t specifically like a religious exemption school or state that they’re religious, a lot of times the program owners and a lot of the staff do have a particular religion and they hire because they have that religion 

Even in the ones that don’t specifically state that they are, Catholic or Baptist or Fundamental Baptist, whatever it may be. It’s still within the program, right? So a lot of the owners of these facilities are latter Day Saints and a lot of the morals and values that they have within, Mormonism gets put into the program and it certainly gets put into the way that they treat the kids and or handle issues within the facility, such as someone being LGBTQ plus, right? They’re gonna handle that situation based on their values and morals within their religion. So you’re going to see some of that abuse coming out in that way.

Jay Ruderman: Do you think that, , there’s a little bit more leeway when, when there’s a religious aspect to it saying, oh, well there’s freedom of religion, and they have their own beliefs and they can, you know, impose these beliefs within this system.

Meg Appelgate: 100%. It is one of the biggest frustrations of mine , it is so hard to shut down a program period, but it’s really hard to shut down an abusive program that is a religious exemption because there’s so many protections. I’ve, I’ve talked to survivors who have been beaten while they’re hearing bible verses.

Jay Ruderman: Hmm.

Meg Appelgate: it’s, there’s nothing they can do. I know people who have lost their sister in, in a facility, in a religious facility, and when they went to try to sue them, they couldn’t because there wasn’t like an agreement full of, in this agreement, I say agreement, but it really wasn’t, it was full of like bible verses a legal agreement to, you know, not sue.

In all this was Bible verses, how is this even happening? There’s just so much leeway for any kind of religious exemption school because they can say, well, you know, we’ve practiced this within our religion for a hundred years, so it is in our religion that we’re able to beat someone while we’re saying Bible verses. That is part of it, and there’s really nothing like people can do.

Jay Ruderman: You know, you’ve talked about the connection between some cults and tough love mentality from the 1970s and this transition into the troubled teen industry. Can you talk a little bit about the connection or how you see it? Cult-like bike.

Meg Appelgate: Each type of troubled teen facility, whether it’s a bootcamp or if it’s a religious academy or wilderness or therapeutic boarding school, they all have their own ediologies and stuff. , if you dated all back, there was a cult in, in the 1960s, 19 late 1950s, that was an offshoot of Alcoholics Anonymous, and it was called Synanon and Synanon, back then was made because Alcoholics Anonymous was very tight.

It was only alcoholics. There was no drug addicts allowed very, non-inclusive. So it was developed and it quickly turned into America’s Deadliest, one of the America’s deadliest cults. And they practiced something called the game. And the game was what now is called attack therapy.  It eventually was disbanded, but not before many people who were inspired by sending on to start their own, spinoff programs, some of which are Straight Incorporated, which was a big one because it, it started really focusing on the youth, right? Not just, not just adults, but now we’re talking about youth. And then, that led to kids and the Seed, and then a really, really big one. CEDU and CEDU schools, really started the very beginnings of what we call the therapeutic boarding schools, And wilderness camps and wilderness therapy, they have a different etiology back to, uh, BYU and a wilderness course that was started. , and then we have, you know, religious academies that go back to like roll off homes and, and, uh, fundamental, um, Christian beliefs. It’s really thought of that Synanon and the tactics within Synanon became a very important aspect of the way that these troubled teen facilities work. Even if they didn’t come from Synanon and CEDU schools, it had elements of that, right. And it was a really good way to brainwash people is to break them down till they, they just feel like there’s nothing left. And so you see an aspect of that really incorporated into everything.

Jay Ruderman: So I understand that there was a turning point for you when you had a close friend at, Chrysalis who, died by suicide. What impact did that have on you?

Meg Appelgate: it was catastrophic. And you know, I had, so backstory, I have this really one of my best friends from chrysalis had been my friend ever since Chrysalis only. She woke up right away. She did not ever think that this was a great place, but we were best friends and I did. 

And finally when, when my Chrysalis sister committed suicide, I went to her and I. Did we, I’m kind of trying to think about Chrysalis. Were, were we abused and she responded, God, finally, you know. She had been waiting for me to wake up so that we could talk about it so that we could both like kind of go into what exactly had happened.

And it really, it was, it was the suicide that caused me to turn around and understand this narrative in a much different way, and which subsequently caused me to absolutely trauma spiral out of control and all of a sudden, everything, you know, it’s tons of anxiety and panic attacks, and I even became  agoraphobic.

I could barely leave the house, and I didn’t know why yet, because that was just the first component of waking up. I hadn’t really understood that I was truly abused right at that point. It’s a slow, slow process that’s happened over the past several years.

Jay Ruderman: All right. I’m so sorry.

Meg Appelgate: Thank you.

Jay Ruderman: Who is funding these facilities? Cuz it’s not just parents who are paying to have their child go through these programs. There’s also government money coming into these programs.

Meg Appelgate: so we’ll never be able to get an accurate account of how much parents and caregivers are privately giving, cuz there’s zero reporting on that aspect. However, we have determined that approximately 23 billion of public funds are going into these facilities and , they’re coming from various pipelines, they’re coming from juvenile justice, they’re coming from child placing advocates, they’re coming from school systems and IEPs, parents, mental health professionals and insurance companies. I mean, you name it. We’re seeing a pipeline that exists , but like I said, it’s so hard to be able to tell. Because it’s virtually unregulated and, and the regulations are really up to the states and obviously regulations and laws between states very greatly. 

Jay Ruderman: But there’s also federal money coming in as I understand. Why are these abuses allowed to take place without regulation from state government, from federal government, even local authorities?

Meg Appelgate: Right. I mean, you would think that federal funding would mean federal regulation and um, unfortunately there isn’t. And what is really atrocious is that if you look into laws regarding abuse within the home, it’s very, very clear cut. We know what’s gonna get us in trouble and what, what is gonna get a child removed from someone’s care.

And if that happens, it’s clear cut repercussions and we know pretty much what’s gonna happen in court. But for some reason when we remove that child from the home and put them into an institution, all of a sudden there’s really a lack of accountability. And to be honest, as far as I know, there is no definition of institutional abuse that exists on a federal level. In fact, there’s no bill of rights for children on a federal level. There’s so little protections and, it’s mind boggling to me. I don’t understand how we can even see places like this existing without this really basic foundation of having children able to access a phone to be able to report abuse and, access to food and water and things like that. How, how is that not built into this at the very least? And if you take a look actually side by side, view of you’re rights when you’re in prison and the rights when you’re in the troubled teen industry and you have way more rights when you’re in prison, way more rights, way more protected.

Jay Ruderman: And is there any leadership in Congress, or in the administration that’s looking into this saying there are real abuses there and we’re not doing a good enough job to regulate this industry?

Meg Appelgate: More so now than ever, we’re actually being listened to and you know, we’re catching media’s attention, we’re catching Congress’s attention. There’s several senators who are really, really interested in this. And have really had it right with all of the abuse that they’ve seen for the past 50 years that’s been reported.

So I mean, in August of last year, right after our trip to DC. We heard from Senator White and Senator Murray that they were launching a federal investigation into the four main TTI companies, because of allegations and long-established patterns of abuse. So we’re really starting to feel the movement shift, right?

This is not a new movement. Um, as far as advocates are concerned. I know people who have been fighting this for over 30 years, but we’re finally feeling a difference in how much people are caring about it. And we’re also seeing a difference because of incredible advocates who have a platform and are speaking out that now more survivors feel like they can tell their story and wow, someone cares.

And I’m, and I’m seeing programs react accordingly. I think that they’re scared.

Jay Ruderman: And I, I understand there were even celebrities like Paris Hilton who’ve become involved and spoken out against it.

[Paris Hilton Qoute]

Meg Appelgate: Yep. Yep. Exactly. She’s amazing. She really helped pave the way for all of us survivors to come out and not only wake up, she caused a lot of survivors to wake up to the abuse. She certainly helped with mine and, uh, but also really feel like it’s okay to tell your story. and that was, that was definitely a significant part of my waking up. Further when I watched her documentary and when she said the words that her abductors said to her, we can do this the easy way, the hard way. And they were the exact same words as mine. That was powerful. Yeah.

Jay Ruderman: Sexuality and gender identity – is this also part of the trouble teen industry? 

Meg Appelgate: They’re certainly trying to, , I’ve spoke to programs. We’ve had different people in within our movement who have called programs and actually like asked them, pretended to have a kid and all this stuff and, and honestly it they are claiming even in, even in states where conversion therapy is illegal, they are basically claiming that they can help change their kid and that they don’t have to be bisexual or they don’t have to have they them pronouns or fill in the blank.

It’s pretty disgusting what’s going on. And I think with this now movement of people finally feeling comfortable in their own skin and being able to say, this is who I am, they’re seeing that as a new marketing technique because they’re, they are assuming that parents are gonna, may have an issue with that and many parents do. And so they seek out these facilities that could potentially change.

Jay Ruderman: So talk to us about your organization on UnSilenced. How did it start and, and what is the bulk of the work that you do?

Meg Appelgate: I really decided to start it because I had been in nonprofits my entire career. I’m the vice president and managing director of a foundation. I’ve sat on boards my entire career, and so I, I had this experience in non-profit. And I wanted to enmesh it with my newfound purpose, which was really just making sure child abuse stops within institutions. And so that’s when un Silence was born. And we’re really a nonprofit that serves past, present, and future victims of institutional child abuse.

Jay Ruderman: And I understand that the organization’s very active on TikTok and Instagram. What are you learning on these platforms from people who are probably still in the industry?

Meg Appelgate: I’m really learning. just how much these platforms work.

Jay Ruderman: Hmm.

Meg Appelgate: I’m seeing, you know, TikTok is really important. I’ve seen that be really important because you’re targeting kids that are like the ages that they would be sent away. So all of a sudden with TikTok coming out, we’re able to see kids start to be empowered with information.

We have kids reaching out –  Saying to us, my parents want to send me to Wilderness Camp, uh, they wanna send me to second nature. Can you send me information on Second Nature? And we’re doing that. So we’re actually empowering the kids before they get to this point of being able of being sent away. Right. And, that  gives them a chance to have a.. sit down and have a conversation with their parents about these places and, you know, whether that, whether or not their parents listen is obviously out of our control, but how much social media can help these kids and get information and help us reach those decision makers. And honestly, just coming together and feeling that sense of community because for so long, so many of us didn’t have a community. For the longest time, I didn’t even know the troubled teen industry existed. 

So it allowed us to all find each other and there’s so much comfort in being able to find each other and hear other people’s stories and how similar they are to yours. It’s just so extremely validating to have that. And I think that, in turn it makes the programs very scared. We’re making our movement much bigger than they anticipated, and as big as they are, our stories put together are pretty, pretty big. So I think that they’re finally realizing like, oh, we’re up against a lot.

Jay Ruderman: So I understand that on silence has done a really good job at sort of documenting the long term negative effects of the troubled teen industry, the spread of these facilities, the reported causes of death. Why do you think all of this is important? What’s it doing?

Meg Appelgate: It’s forcing transparency into an industry that not only is it not encouraged, but it literally doesn’t exist. And that’s really what our website is. It’s a tool to force transparency. Our archive is absolutely incredible. We have over 3,500 different programs within that archive and over a hundred thousand different documents.

And the really amazing thing about our website further is that we’re using OCR, optical character recognition to search all those PDFs, search every single word so that it gets incorporated into Google so that, for instance, if someone goes to Google and says Provo Canyon School, that we might show up first before Provo Canyon School, because we mentioned Provo Canyon School many more times than Provo Canyon School. So it’s a tool to put the information in the decision maker’s hands and it’s one that’s really, really effective. We are u our archive is used by disability rights, all over the country, used by organizations, attorneys, and all of that. So it’s, it’s really our way of making sure information is out there.

Jay Ruderman: How can people be effective in supporting or showing support for the unsilenced movement?

Meg Appelgate: With how many kids are being sent to these facilities, we’re talking 120,000 to 200,000 kids a year are housed in these facilities, chances are, you know, someone that has, so talk about it. Ask people, ask people to tell their stories.

And furthermore, go and follow our socials and learn about the industry. Learn, learn what you can do on our website and even donate. We’re definitely looking for donations as well. And then connections. If you know someone that has a potential connection that could further our networking or allow us to connect to a new survivor, even if there’s survivors, you know, send ’em our way. We have amazing volunteers within our organization and an incredible group of people. So there’s really so many ways, but the number one thing is to just talk about what’s going on and have a conversation at dinner about the troubled teen industry and how we need to be careful and teach your kids about this. Tell your kids that this industry exists because then they’ll tell their friends and it could potentially keep kids from being sent.

Jay Ruderman: Yeah, so powerful. What advice would you have for people like me who are parents who may be having a hard time with their teenagers what do you tell teenagers who might be having a hard time with their parents that are, maybe doing some behaviors that might have caused you at one point to be sent away, but, how do you deal with these without getting involved in a worse situation?

Meg Appelgate: Yeah,  it’s something that I’m going through as well, right? My oldest is 12 and very much so a mini me . So,  I’m going through the exact same things and one thing that I think is really helpful is for you to find help. You and your partner to make sure that you have someone to talk to about these behaviors. And I think that something that is underrated and underutilized is parent coaches.

Jay Ruderman: Mm-hmm.

Meg Appelgate: Parent coaches can be incredible in these kinds of situations because it allows you to get. An understanding of a child’s point of view, of a teen’s point of view, cuz it’s been so long since we’ve been at that point.

And every child learns differently. Every, every teenager functions differently. So for every child it’s different. And so getting a parent coach that you can work with, just you, your partner, and this coach can literally sit down and learn different mechanisms of being able to get them on the right path and the best way for that specific child and the way that they react or their temperament to be a good coach for your kid, right.

That is something that I’ve found to be really, really helpful and obviously on their end, opening conversations up about this stuff, right, about the things that they’re going through and finding them help if they need, there’s even kid coaches, which I think are underutilized as well.

People that are just advocates for this kid. They can call, they can text, and they are able to understand and kind of walk them through the hard times when they can’t talk to their parents, which we all know, we don’t always wanna talk to our parents. 

Jay Ruderman: Right. 

Meg Appelgate: I also think that pairing them up with someone else who has potentially been through that, and it might be older than them that have already been through something like that, is really powerful as well. I think lived experiences does a lot, right? It’s very powerful to be able to feel so validated in the things that you think no one else understands. Right? So I think that getting them around other people who have recovered from whatever they are dealing with is extremely powerful as well. 

Jay Ruderman: For someone like me who’s a listener, who’s concerned about their child, and what are some of the safe and compassionate ways to provide support to your child who might be going through a really difficult time.

Meg Appelgate: To listen, just, you know, when I think back to that point in my life, like. , it would’ve been really cool to just have someone listen and to not have a repercussion of that listening too. Like to be able to say whatever I wanted, I could cuss, I could do whatever I needed to say, do whatever I needed to do in that moment, but to just feel like, wow, I’m listened to.

And I think that we react as parents sometimes to what they’re saying. For instance, let’s say my daughter says, I hate. , I hate you. Right? We get offended, but what I really try hard to do is God, that must be really hard to feel towards your mom, you know, own that right now she does hate me , you know, and own that that’s not anything about me. But to validate that feeling because if I say, no, you don’t. Don’t say that. That means I’m instantly invalidating her instead of being like, yeah, I bet you do. But her, that must really feel like really crummy.

Jay Ruderman: Hmm.

Meg Appelgate: you know, and just trying to listen and validate whatever they’re saying because they’re still learning how to emotionally regulate.


Jay Ruderman: Right, right. Well, Meg, this was very, very powerful. Such an important issue that you’re undertaking and, and you know, I wish you success and I wish you safety, you know, because I’m sure there are forces that are not happy with what you’re doing.

Meg Appelgate: Yes.

Jay Ruderman: And it was a pleasure to have you as my guest on all about change.

So thank you so much for sharing your story with us.

Meg Appelgate: Absolutely. It was a pleasure to be here.

Jay Ruderman: Thank you.


Jay VO: All About Change is a production of The Ruderman Family Foundation. Our show is produced by Yochai Maital and Mijon Zulu.

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