Icarus 2011: Local Group Reports (US)

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 LOCAL GROUPSGainesville, FLPittsburgh, PAWashington, DCSeattle, WARichmond, VAMadison, WINEW GROUPSFargo, NDAlbuquerque, NM The Gainesville Icarus Project- an experiment in community supportIn August of 2010 I decided to facilitate a discussion on mental health at Gainesville's annual DIY Fest. Much to my surprise, and despite that the workshop was the last in a long day of information and skill-sharing, it turned out to be a topic that left only standing room in our rather large radical library. Immediately, and quite organically, the Gainesville Icarus Project was formed. Since then, we have been trying to find our identity as a group, which seems to be more of a fluid and ever-changing process than I imagined.Over the course of the last year and a half what seems to have emerged is the creation of a community support group. We meet bi-monthly to support each other through peer-counseling. Sometimes we are quiet and introspective, offering somber advice for issues of heavy weight, and sometime we loudly rant and jestfully laugh, poking fun at the oppressive reality all around us, finding that the relief of solidarity can be enough to give us hope. Yet we've discovered that every meeting is different, and every person's needs are constantly evolving, and we remain open to these shifting dynamics and excited about where they will lead.We have partnered with Mind Freedom International to put on movie screenings on several occasions, and have supported our local Occupy movement by hosting a workshop on "activist burnout." And, as we continue to grow and transform as a group, we are so thankful for Icarus' support network that stretches far and wide, making our burdens that much easier to share.Contact: Rusty Poulette busyrusty@gmail.comIcarus Project PittsburghThe Pittsburgh group is active, and we get between 2 and 8 people during a meeting. Its small and cozy, and we have couches and tea and lots of places to stretch out or curl up. Its child friendly, and we have specific guidelines designed for it to be both adult and child friendly. Our meeting format varies from open discussion to art projects. We have tons of literature available and are always on the lookout for zines, books and info to add to the pile. There's also a guide in the making for how to deal with a member in crisis, de-escalate a group conflict, and other sticky situations as well as a critical needs resource guide - with conventional referrals as well as unconventional advice on how to get through a financial/physical crisis. (I'm psyched. I've been laboring this baby in my brain for about ten years. I think it will be ready to hatch soon!) While our group is small and in a part of the city that isn't as well known or easy to get around, the value of even two people connecting and finding solidarity in their common struggles is without parallel. We may be small, but we are alive and kicking and making a difference and hope to be here for a long time.Contact: Reese reesedobbins@gmail.comThe DC Mad Hatter's Tea PartyThe DC Mad Hatter's Tea Party is a new radical mental health group in Washington, D.C., inspired and influenced by the Icarus Project. Prior to D.C. Mad Hatter's Tea Party, a radical mental health collective called District Support for Mental Variance (D.S.M.V.) had been organizing in D.C. for over a year and published two group zine projects, put on workshops, and held regular meetings, before going on hiatus. In the winter of 2010, three new organizers (including one former member of D.S.M.V.) started laying the foundation for a new radical mental health collective, D.C. Support for Mental Diversity, before having to stop due to illness, moving out of the area, and organizer burnout. In October of 2011, the organizers of what is now D.C. Mad Hatter's Tea Party began meeting and working collectively to form a new group. We chose the name "Mad Hatter's Tea Party" as a cheeky nod to the tea & coffee shop we've been meeting at, and because we love the dreamy madness of the story Alice's Adventures In Wonderland by Lewis Carroll and the resistance of the Hatter and his Mad Tea Party against the tyrannical Red Queen. We feel that the D.C. area needs a free, non-hierarchical group organizing in the community for alternatives to the mental health industry, a group that creates a safer space for people with various mental/emotional experiences and different backgrounds and identities to come together and share stories, give & receive consensual peer support, learn self-care techniques, and find resources -- all the while emphasizing respect, self-determination, consent, accountability, mutual aid, and Harm Reduction, and recognizing the intersections of mental health ableism and other forms of oppression. We also plan to help form groups for activism and art projects separate from the main support group. D.C. Mad Hatter's Tea Party welcomes folks of all experiences and identities, regardless of the presence or absence of a clinical diagnosis or treatment. We hope you'll join us for tea! (Hats are optional.)dcmadtea(at)gmail(dot)comhttp://dcmadhatters.tumblr.comdcmadhatters on TwitterSeattle, Washington "Icaristas, Growing Older"Greetings from Seattle, Washington! In autumn of 2010 some of us noticed that the local Icarus crew was falling into two very distinct camps: those that were at the beginning of their healing journeys, whose struggles focused on getting through the day, navigating various health care systems and struggling with recent diagnosis and subsequent identity shifts; and those that were more than a decade or two into *their* journeys, grappling with roles of growing older, parenting, becoming the elders, in a sense, by default- those of us that had already more or less mastered "the basics" of survival and now had more long-term concerns about creating longer-lasting lives with networks and community. So we branched out, and in 2011 there was a traditional Icarus group that continued to meet on Wednesdays and a new group that started meeting on Mondays for those much further along in their process or over 35, called Icaristas, Growing Older.IGO is going very well- we meet nearly every week and have a core group of 5 or 6 people, with new folks starting to inquire about the meetings as we pull further into the dim light of winter. The format is the same to the one I picked up as a facilitator in the NYC chapter, with introductions and check-ins and then open discussion. While many of us in this group are 10, 20 or 30+ years into our healing process, we've had a few that are newer to dealing with their mental health issues. Still, the feedback we get is consistent for them as well: it's comforting to have a crew of older folks to talk about these issues with, as being in one's 30's or 40's with a new diagnosis or new awareness can present it's own complexities. We live in a culture that affords a certain "craziness" to our youth. Movies like "Girl, Interrupted" and others like it carry a romanticism because the protagonist grappling with their demons is able to be somehow naive and therefore attractive as they move into the belly of the beast. But culture shows us few- if any- acceptable versions of older adults grappling with similar issues. Like so many others in the greater Icarus community, we too are making our own maps. We have hope that all *our* cartography will prove useful to some of you younger Icaristas later one, should you need it.here's our original IGO announcement link:http://legacy.theicarusproject.net/forums/viewtopic.php?f=89&t=23312here's the seattle general discussion thread:http://legacy.theicarusproject.net/forums/viewtopic.php?f=89&t=19508 Mind(ful) Liberation Project -- Richmond, VAMind(ful) Liberation Project, Richmond VA's Icarus Project group, turned a year old at the beginning of October 2011. We have accomplished a lot over the past year and we've had a lot of fun doing it, too! We've had lots of interest, organizing, and planning meetings (of course); tons of peer support groups; and lots of awareness-raising, fundraising, and social events. We went from initially having biweekly peer support groups to now having them weekly!Our members have collaborated/started a ton of other projects too, such as psychOUT (http://www.psyout.tumblr.com, the RVA Peer Support Crisis Line, RVA Peer Support (http://www.rvapeersupport.org), Something Something Press which is a distro that mainly sells mental health-related zines (http://www.somethingsomethingpress.com), national Icarus Project organizing, releasing personal publications (zines and a book--can be found at Something Something Press!), multiple art shows/installations, finishing and printing the 2nd edition of the Coping Skills zine (http://www.somethingsomethingpress.com/stress-anger-anxiety-depression-a...), Mindful Occupation: How to Rise Up Without Burning Out (an Icarus-inspired booklet for the Occupy Wall Street movement), RVA Radicalendar (http://rvaradicalendar.blogspot.com), and even being inspired to start their own Icarus Project group (http://legacy.theicarusproject.net/lunarchy-front) in their hometown (we miss you Staunton folks!!!).A big thank you goes out to all the folks that have shown their support over the past year, and a special thank you to The Flying Brick Library (http://flyingbrickrva.wordpress.com), The Black Hand (https://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=151399644876689&v=info) (so sad to see you all go), and The Gay Community Center of Richmond (http://www.gayrichmond.com) for hosting us and our events.We are in the process of doing more outreach work in general and with specific nonprofits, organizations, and groups, as we are working on spreading out more to the larger Richmond community. The next year looks to be very exciting!We have big dreams for the next year. We'll be happy if we achieve just a fraction of what our creative minds can think up. We are the new "normal." Let's break the stigma, one event at a time. Feeling is not an "illness"!See you in the streets!Mail (we love letters, pen pals, and zine/book exchanges and donations!)Mind(ful) Liberation ProjectP.O. Box 7019Richmond, VA 23221Official websites*Our New Mental Health Lending Library!*:http://www.librarything.com/catalog/mindfulliberationMain Website:http://mindfulliberation.wordpress.comFacebook Page:http://www.facebook.com/mindfulliberationFacebook Group for online peer support:https://www.facebook.com/groups/mindfulliberationproject/RVA Peer Support Crisis Line(804) 631-313424 hours a day / 7 days a weekAnonymous & confidential support in times of emotional crisisMadison, WIThe Icarus Project group in Madison, Madrads, is not meeting right now...Part of this may have things to do with lack of attendance, some conflicts between frequent members, some members moving out of town, and the refusal to share responsibility in running the group as a collective. There has also been some argument of a good space to hold the meeting, which has changed before from the Madison Infoshop to the Faux-op, and then the Infoshop again when the Faux-op was foreclosed by the city (A Really Nice Housing Co-op!) Luckily, when we were getting meetings that were larger in number of people some members of Madrads and The Madison Infoshop including myself, went to visit West Bend, which has a similar Icarus group with LOTS of people at the CandlelightCollective Community Space. This is probably about 1 1/2 hours away from Madison, but it would be a great group for those to go to who live east of Madison and in the Milwaukee, WI area. It is a similar space to the Madison Infoshop, but bigger, a designated Safe Space, and has areas for Artistic and Musical expression. I was impressed and hope to return someday.The Occupy Madison movement has also drawn some people from Madrads towards it and there is a great deal of interest in holistics with many members and, for a lack of a better term, various "new-age movements."Eventually, it was come to a consensus from a lot of people on the Madrads list serve that we could still keep in touch with each other on the list serve with any questions and new info regarding radical mental health.Some Madrads members (both former/current and prospective members) have met with each other outside of groups for coffee/tea and to do other things.It has come up that many people who were members may not feel like they want to go to a support group right now, but we have decided to try to keep in contact with each other via list serve and would like to plan artistic and fun events with each other.Another thing that was recently discussed was the possibility of a med-reduction support group in Madison for there are a lot of Icaristas who are trying to go off their meds safely and would like to share experiences I think. There has not been a physical group started, but a new list serve was started medreduction@yahoogroups.com for Madrads and anyone else who would like to join, as it is a list serve, there are no geographic boundaries so I encourage anyone with interest to join!I have also joined Icarus Project online forums recently myself and I find it for now a great alternative network of support as someone who has felt abused by a lot of local psychiatric and social work "systems" and a bit disappointed with NAMI, due to their mainstream pro-medication approaches...Some other neat stuff is being done, and hopefully Madrads or another Icarus group in Madison can get started again sometime in the future! I liked having in-person groups as there is no substitute for human contact!Contact: Alexandra Foster yesterdays_feather@yahoo.com NEW GROUPS Fargo, North DakotaIcarus Project has saved my life. Really. I heard about it from a friend and it has been a source of strength and inspiration for me. I remember being in the psych ward (yet again) feeling so disillusioned, heartbroken, defeated yet there was this fire burning within me that somehow, some way there had to be some other way beyond those gray walls, pills that sedated me, and numbness… that there had to be a way to ignite my fire and others' fires in a way that I would not burst into ashes again. Some way that I could still exist outside that monolithic prison ward with others like me, embrace and celebrate those extremes within me as part of my crazy mad sometimes destructive beauty. The Icarus Project was exactly what I had been looking for and hoping for and the Icarus zines helped me way more than any other self help book I was given that tried to make me like 'everybody else'.That is what compelled me to start a group in Fargo, for those of us who dance along the margins and would like our own vision for a group. Our first meeting will be December 20th. We will be meeting at the Red Raven Espresso Parlor, because it is a worker owned and operated coffee shop that is aligned with radical, non-mainstream perspectives. The group's definitely in it's infancy, I've recruited some like-minded folks from treatment and AA/NA to join, put up flyers at local businesses and colleges, and created a Facebook event. I also have been in touch with a girl who had a Grand Forks, ND group (as Grand Forks is only an hour away) for tips and she may come to organize as their group fizzled out.lots of mad love,Tito Extremo titoextremox@gmail.com   New Mexico Icarus is in the works!The Icarus Albuquerque group is slowly growing. From screenings of films like Dialogues with Madwomen this past summer and an upcoming series in January at our arts/community space, conversations are beginning and connections are bearing their first fruit. We have some exciting things in the works for the new year: teach-ins, reading hours, and an ever more dynamic resource library. Will Hall's show Madness Radio has been a particularly effective outreach tool that we are grateful for. Looking forward to hearing about more tools and tips from fellow Icaristas around the globe. For updates and to introduce yourself, please give us a holler at albuquerque.icarus@gmail.comALLIED GROUPSALLIED GROUPS Life After Labelslifeafterlabels.orgMy name is Aki, and I feel grateful that I am involved with the Icarus Project, because I can connect and work with people who have critical views about the current mental health system. Being a student of psychology, I feel increasingly frustrated about the direction that mainstream psychology is taking. One of my attempts to critique the system was launching a blog as a part of MindFreedom International's Boycott Normal! campaign: lifeafterlabels.org. It's a submission-based blog where ANYONE with psychiatric struggles can submit stories (or videos, song, art piece, etc) about their lives after psychiatric labeling. I would love stories, songs, and artwork from members of the Icarus Project, given your creative enthusiasm! Why are we doing this? Well, we all know the number of youths with psychiatric labels is higher than ever. With the DSM-5 coming out, it's likely that it will increase even more. Blogs are popular among youths today, so reading our stories all in one blog can help in a time of confusion and loneliness. If you have a story to tell, please send submissions to lifeafterlabels@gmail.com, with a short passage, even a few sentences about how labels hurt you or your loved ones, how you struggled with those labels, and perhaps how you overcame them. Thank you! I feel inspired by the efforts of the Icarus Project, and I feel fortunate to be a part of it. Update from Long time Icarus forum user Steven SmilesAlyssum Respite HouseIt's been an exciting year in Vermont.  In November we opened up a respite house called Alyssum - Greek for "Away from Madness" - that provides peer support to folks in crisis.  What began as a handwritten proposal four years ago is now blossoming in a serene valley with animals, gardens, homegrown food, and most importantly, goodhearted people. They say that "crisis presents opportunity," and nowhere could this be seen clearer than in Hurricane Irene flooding our state psychiatric hospital.  With new monies suddenly available and a governor committed to not return to a state hospital facility, we submitted a proposal for a Soteria House to help provide stronger community services.  Based on Loren Mosher's project, Soteria helps folks reorganize after a "psychotic break" with lots of people support and minimum psychiatric interventions.  So far, so good.  The project could be opened within the next year.I am in my third year as Director of Another Way, a community center for psychiatric survivors.  Always a challenge, often magical, sometimes soul-searching, we continue to stretch our limits and share in the joy of camaraderie.  Lots of mutual support, psychedelic art, plants, funkiness, growing pains, and kindness.  We have become much more of an intentional community than a so-called service provider, and that feels right.  With eighteen folks on the payroll and countless volunteers, we are slowly becoming a force for change in our community.Contact: Steven Morgan  stevenmorganjr@gmail.com 404-376-4523The Firewalkers Project -- Charlottesville, VAOh, Firewalkers. I think about it day and night. We wondered at this time last year if this project had done what it meant to do and now would wind down. Today I feel more energized and optimistic than ever that the work we are doing matters and we are at a tipping point in history for talking about this thing that is labeled mental illness and the message of hope, resiliency and honesty that is The Firewalkers Project.A quick year in review: Hung out with Sascha Altman DuBrul to plot Firewalkers next steps in creating a curriculum, working together and doing work that matters, spoke in NYC at Bluestockings, in Chicago at Dominican University Graduate School and a host of local places, began the creation of a 1 credit "Peer Perspectives" course at James Madison University slated for March, showed the Firewalker prints and quotes at our local NPR station with a big opening night (made possible by New City Arts), recorded stories of VOCAL members talking about life and what they believe (http://vocalvirginia.org/#/who-we-are/4553107122) published a zine (The little art book) about starting an art/support group, co-hosted a Mental Wellness Expo with our local drop-in center, tried for a Kickstarter fundraiser, a garage sale, used books on Amazon... and probably some other things too!Malaina Jean PooreExecutive Assistant, Firewalkers CoordinatorVOCAL, Inc.www.vocalvirginia.orgwww.thefirebook.org