The following article written by Amanda* (since identified as Chelsea), survivor of Mercy Ministries, was originally published on Christian website Reve Life and can be viewed here.
Mercy Ministries is a six-month residential treatment center that treats young women with “life controlling issues” such as self harm, eating disorders, victims of abuse, drug abuse, alcoholism, suicidal tendencies. They are a multi-national, popular, charismatic, Christianity based, residential treatment center that I’d like to see shut down.
I was 20 when I stayed at Mercy Ministries America for four months in 2008 to deal with issues that had been affecting me for years — eating disorders, PTSD, dissociative disorders and severe chemical depression. By the time I made it to Mercy I had been in a dozen or more psychiatric wards and all I wanted was to feel better. To feel ground under my feet. I was greeted with something far from that. It was much more then just throwing me out the door. What they did to me was very wrong.
Going into Mercy I was basically promised the world. I was promised freedom from my illnesses if I would just obey them and in turn obey God. If I did as they said I would be free. And that’s all I wanted was to feel better. If you told me that walking across country would make me better, I would have done it. I was weak, I was vulnerable, I was very sick. I knew going into Mercy that it was a “tough” program. But I was convinced that’s what I needed.
I had been convinced that I had somehow faulted in someway and that in order to make myself right I had to go through some type of ‘boot camp’. It’s a popular mindset among those who suffer with the types of illnesses Mercy takes in. That they did something wrong, that they caused it. Mercy reinforced this type of thinking.
I walked through Mercy’s perfectly cleaned doors on June 18th 2008, hopeful for a full recovery — not knowing that mental illnesses doesn’t go away with prayer, or the turn of a Bible or all the chores in the world. I was excited, I would walk out of there a champion. But three months went by, we had worked on removing me from my medications, I had read copious amounts of books, done my weekly “counseling sessions” with my “counselor”, did all my chores, followed their every command and I was just getting worse. I finally broke down one day after getting yelled at by a staff member and asked to call my mom, so she could help me make a decision on leaving the program.
They kept yelling at me “You’re not calling your mom. You’re not special!” (we were only allowed phone calls on the weekends.)
I walked out of the home and down the driveway to find my own phone. Only I didn’t make it. They caught me and brought me back and put me on probation. No mail. One phone call a week. This is the first time I had gotten in trouble at all and they used it against me to the max.
My month of probation went by, and I was tired. I was exhausted. I had been taken off all of my medications at this point and I could barely pull myself out of bed in the morning, and we were not allowed to sleep during the day. I was so tired of them ordering me around. They weren’t helping me. To say I was tired of it, was an understatement. I don’t usually jump when one says jump. But I did it. I did it for three months, because they told me it would make me be able to live again. And after three months and no results I was tired of it.
One morning I refused to get out of bed. I told them “I am tired. I am not getting out of bed”. This may seem like “okay you’re an adult, you can make your own decision”. But to Mercy, this is a total lack of “willingness to work the program” and follow their every whim. Yes this only happened once. They called me down to the head’s office. “We called your mom, your plane leaves in 4 hours, get upstairs and pack your stuff”. It was October, right after my 21st birthday.
I started sobbing, I still had it in my head that Mercy was the only way that I would survive. I belted out “but I’ll die out there!” They cared little. They shoved all the pills I never got to take in the front sack of my suitcase and sent me out that same day, with no follow up care. I sent a letter soon after asking them to please take me back, but they didn’t respond until January.
They kept playing weird games “Yea you’ll get back in”, “Well we’re not really sure”. Until finally I cut them off, I stopped all contact with Mercy and haven’t spoken to them since. Two days later I ended up swallowing the pills they sent me home with and landing myself in a medical hospital for two weeks and a psychiatric hospital for two months. At that point I had no hope whatsoever of ever feeling better.
I finally got my insurance back, that I lost while I wasn’t receiving my mail there, I was able to receive psychiatric care again and it took a lot of hard work to be able to “feel better,” Like real recovery of mental illnesses, I have down periods and I can admit them and work past them and it’s okay for me to have them. I don’t have to hide them. I no longer act on my eating disorder, but am careful, because it will always exist and my depression is manageable now, although unfortunately Mercy has heightened my PTSD and dissociative disorders, so that is still a constant struggle. But it’s one that I am taking strides to accomplish at mastering so that I can continue to move forward with my life.
Mercy will try to take on really severe cases in order to get better success stories, but usually these girls end up being kicked out in the end and even more sick. It starts from the very beginning when they tell you there are “700 girls on the waiting list” and “only God knows if you should get in”. That’s when you start fighting for your life. But you’re fighting for nothing and when you realize that, it really hurts.
I now continue to fight against Mercy Ministries and try to get people to understand they are a destructive cult who takes advantage of young girls weaknesses. I am not the only one who claims this of Mercy, who calls them a cult. Even Rick Ross, cult expert, will tell you that Mercy Ministries fits the BITE model for mind control and is in fact a cult.