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Teens get anxiety treatment living in the woods

Posted at 5:08 PM, Mar 31, 2016
Now as many as a fourth of all teenagers are suffering from crippling anxiety disorders. One camp in Citrus County is helping teenage girls work through this all while living with no phone or internet, in the woods.
 
Claire Caviness, 15, has been at Camp E-Nini-Hassee, an Eckerd Kids program, for nearly eight months. She wakes up, makes her bed, splits firewood and sets her intentions for the day in a ceremony called "Powwow."
 
"I'm grateful for waking up to a beautiful day," she said.
 
She uses no technology because it's not allowed at the camp. It's just her, her fellow campers and her thoughts. 
 
The girls all live together in three camps of about 10-14 teenagers, plus two chiefs who help supervise. They sleep outdoors in small, outdoor cabins. They also have regular chores and cook their food outdoors.
 
The only reminders Claire has of her regular life are the pictures of her family she has stored in her bunk. They take her back to when she was scared and felt alone. No one could reach her, not even her mother, she said.
 
"It takes me back to different times," she said.  "I was at a different point in my life in these pictures. I had no self confidence."
 
Claire's parents sent her to Camp E-Nini-Hassee for treatment for severe anxiety. Her fears about social media had spun out of control.
 
"What am I going to fake for the camera today?" she said she thought back then. "What do I want people to know about me today?"
 
Now, she takes comfort in structure and regular group therapy. She knows dozens of other teenagers who are suffering with generalized anxiety disorder.
 
"School has become such a place that is not always about learning," said Holly Smith, a camp teacher and counselor. "It's about who you know, what you're wearing, what your last post was."
 
Teachers and counselors at the camp are now treating 38 teenagers from across the county just like Claire -- all suffering with anxiety and PTSD. They say dropping grades, withdrawing, or turning to drugs and alcohol are warning signs.
 
"When you see anything start to dramatically change, something's wrong," Holly said.
 
But she says getting your child help starts with you.
 
"Being comfortable talking about those hard topics, making it comfortable for your child to approach you," Holly said.
 
Claire is leaving Camp E-Nini-Hassee at the end of May and says now, she's confident she can go back to school a changed person who can cope with anxiety.
 
"I'm okay and I'm good enough, like being who I am," she said.
 
Camp E-Nini-Hassee typically recommends the girls stay anywhere between six and nine months.