Misled Youth Network
Who We Are
Youth hold all the creativity, curiosity, and vitality of human nature in a concentrated form. But from a very early age, we are forced into narrow, limiting ways of thinking and being. We sit in rows and later we march in rows, so that we can battle those whose way of life is out of line with ours. If kids attempt to step out of these formations, they are considered crazy or criminal or misled and are dealt with using methods that are even more coercive and confining. These "solutions" are called juvenile detention facilities, mental hospitals, residential treatment facilities, group homes, and behavior modification programs. Many of these programs that claim to rehabilitate or reform misled youth -- including those in the "teen help" industry -- employ coercive and humiliating methods in order to intimidate young people into obedience. We fail to see how treating children as though they are not worthy of respect will teach them to be respectful and to take responsibility for their actions.
We as young people and as activists believe that youth should have a voice in our own education and mental health decisions. To this end, we are focusing on challenging abusive institutions that fail to respect youth as full human beings. Beyond a few books and websites, organized action against these types of programs is virtually nonexistent. We are here to change that. The Misled Youth Network believes that the question of childrens futures is not so much, "How can we make sure theyre on the right path?" but rather, "How can we ensure that both parents and children can make informed decisions in all aspects of education and mental heath?" And in attempting to address these questions, others arose, namely: "How can we encourage other young people to examine not only the connections between the forces that stifle us, but also the common points of unity and strength that can help us counter those same forces?" This led us to the conclusion that our major task is to create a broad-reaching, open-ended network of "misled" youth -- young people who feel the need to form their own community and culture where we can support each other, collaborate on relevant and innovative projects, and learn in a self-directed fashion.
What We Do
The Misled Youth Network combines elements of the youth liberation, anti-prison, and mental health rights movements to address the problems that arise when we allow a for-profit industry to have control over our future: children. We draw on many strategies and perspectives to confront abusive institutions by empowering young people through education, support networks, and youth-led programs that use creative expression as a means for kids to gain understanding of ourselves and the world around us. Misled Youth believes that youth need to be presented with many options, opportunities, and ways of thinking rather than only one the mentality of cages and straight lines leading in the same direction.
We're creating a website that functions as a sprawling, many-legged, decentralized network of youth. The website provides forums to share ideas and galleries to share work, helps kids (and adult allies) plug into and create their own artistic and political projects, and provides an ever-expanding amount of resources for self-education, mental health support, and youth advocacy.
Our broader vision for young people achieving self-determination demands that we help youth see themselves as producers rather than consumers of culture. By this we mean reclaiming the cultures -- music, styles, and politics -- that youth originally created. We encourage young people to recognize the artistic, cultural, political, emotional, and spiritual value of their subcultures -- rather than allowing them to be simply trends, distractions, and profit-makers for rich and powerful adults. This is not an entirely new concept. Hip-hop activists have done groundbreaking work in using the elements of hip-hop to promote literacy, creativity, self-confidence and other vital skills for youth. But we want to take this idea a step further by applying it to as many youth cultures as possible -- hip-hop, skater, punk, goth, rave, rastas, and everything in between. We want to create an alternative subculture made up of many different subcultures, showing the connections between them, while at the same time maintaining the integrity of each style and movement.
We see our role in all of this as a responsibility to disseminate art, information, and communication that inspires self-determination, and to provide education and resources to help kids develop the skills necessary to express themselves, strengthen their communities, and advocate for youth. An example of this would be to use a pre-existing youth culture and art form, comic books, as a means of artistic expression, education, and youth advocacy. Members of the Misled Youth Network would begin by outreaching to the comic book community through comic shops, conventions, and the Internet, using our own original comic art as an advertisement. Young comic book artists, writers, and fans would participate in workshops aimed at developing technical skill in the art form, and then applying those skills to producing comics that advocate for and tell the stories of young people. These finished products are then distributed throughout the Misled Youth Network, and also to comic book readers, kids in school, and anyone else who might be interested. Thus we can create a project that connects all our strategies at once, and have fun while we're at it.
Our first major project, and the seed of the Misled Youth Network is a book we're in the process of creating entitled Teenage Lobotomy (subtitle pending).
The book will consist of:
- An introduction to the abuses that take place at various youth institutions and programs
- Personal stories and interviews from students, parents and staff
- News articles about behavior modification programs
- Information about mental health and the mental health system
- Discussion of alternative ways to help troubled teens (and ways for teens to help themselves), including art therapy and other forms of creative expression, various forms of counseling, (such as utilizing AA outpatient programs or talking to mentors for help), and other programs that encourage healing in positive ways
- Discussion of youth activism and organizing
- Discussion of the role of youth culture in self-expression and youth advocacy
- Tons of really good art (and a couple of poems) by young people
- A taste of the original Misled Youth comic
- Information about laws relating to youth
- A massive list of resources including books, organizations, and websites
Another project that Misled Youth is involved in is the Dangerous Gifts Club, part of the ongoing collaboration between Fountain House, a longstanding community center for the mentally ill, The Icarus Project (Community-Based Mental Health Alternatives), and the Misled Youth Network. All Fountain House members are diagnosed with a mental illness, and are thus entitled to services, programs, and a supportive community. The result of the collaboration between the three groups is the transformation of Fountain House's Young Adult Program into the Dangerous Gifts Club. New activities that have been brought to the program include peer counseling, independent film screenings, collage workshops, journaling workshops, discussions, and more. While mental health is not our specific focus, Misled Youth sees the Dangerous Gifts Club as an excellent opportunity to participate in a great program while learning more about reaching out to youth and sharing ideas and support.
How You Can Help
The Misled Youth Network is unique in that it addresses the issue of the institutionalization of youth from a broad, interconnected perspective, and connects it to the larger issues of youth culture, identity, and self-determination. It's also unique in that it was recently founded by two 18-year-olds with no funding. While financial contributions are greatly appreciated, what is really needed is for people young and old to get involved. Become a part of the online Misled Youth Network. Purchase our books, posters, and one-of-a-kind clothing. Help silkscreen shirts. Volunteer to share your skills in programs and workshops. Stand up for kids in your everyday life. Please contact us:
Misled Youth Network
109 St. Marks Place #1
Staten Island, NY 10301
misled-youth.org (under construction)
The BookOrder your free Misled Youth Network info packet today!
Within its 48 pages, you'll find excerpts from our book about youth institutionalization and self-empowerment entitled Teenage Lobotomy, original artwork, and information about the one and only Misled Youth Network. The MYN is a brand-new youth-led project focusing on issues of institutionalization, self-education, mental health, and the media. We use the arts to get what we want! So order your info packet today for the low low price of FREE! (postage donations appreciated)
To order the info packet, or to contact the Misled Youth Network, email them: firstname.lastname@example.org