Icarus Fall Update 2008

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(thanks to Inel for the fabulous photos, from our forums)

Greetings everyone! The wild Icarus menagerie has been up to all sorts of amazing feats and adventures over the past six months, and it's time to take a breather and try to make some notes about it all. There's so much to report about, and so many wonderful and inspiring people involved, that inevitably something's been left out of this brief summary account, so please make sure to add your comments using the site comment feature.

The heart of Icarus is our discussion forums, which remain a thriving source of inspiration and personal connection with hundreds of people posting and many more reading. A random sampling of thread titles doesn't even scratch the surface of the creativity and brilliance in the Icarus community...

"Guide for Dealing with "Normal" People"
"Do you like to play with matches?"
"The voices are real this time"
"Does my father count?"
"What's your sign baby?"
"Take Two Prozac and E-Mail Me in the Morning"
"Social security recipient being discriminated against"
"On Dignity"
"gluten? lactose? confused"
"pets and wellness/recovery"
"Deciding on staying on or going off medication"
"Trazodone is a strange one"
"These researchers got more than just free pens..."
"morality and madness"
"st johns wort anyone?"
"Looking for therapist in Cincinnati OH"
"Electical current feeling in my brain"
"VII Congreso Internacional de Salud Mental y Derechos Humano"
"Inspiration for Activists"

Beyond the thousands who've signed up for our forums, people are also meeting up in person, and independent Icarus-inspired and Icarus-allied groups continue to spring up around the country including, Seattle, Portland OR, Binghamton NY, Pittsburgh PA, St. Louis, Eureka/Arcata, Seattle, Boston, DC, and Richmond Virginia, with ongoing efforts continuing by groups in Asheville, NYC, Chicago, Minneapolis and San Francisco. Icarus inspired autonomous local groups have been educating themselves and each other about self care and survival skills, and building networks of support and mutual aid. Local groups have organized film series, art groups, mad pride events, warm lines, book discussion groups, physical activity groups, and other independent actions.

A monthly community conference call has a dialog going across the continent, and it's great to hear voices and speak real-time with people we may otherwise only know through internet and email. Campus organizing at NYU continues, and we continue to thank Fountain House for ongoing collaboration and donation of office space, which greatly helps our administrative capacity as well as NY region organizing. Fountain House is working with Icarus NYC on a literary review, and an NYU professor hosted a dynamic Icarus visioning discussion in Manhattan.

Icarus publications continue to move briskly through our NYC office and independent distributors, including thousands of direct downloads from the site and translations underway into German and Spanish. Icarus contributed to an anthology entitled "In the Middle of a Whirlwind: Movement and Movements," and the book "Live Through This: On Creativity & Self-Destruction" just published by Seven Stories Press includes a chapter written by a founding Icarus Project member -- the chapter includes info on the Icarus community, Mad Mapping, Crisis/Wellness intervention, and skill building experiences.

In June Icarus had a major breakthrough in our press work, when the daily New York Times included interviews with Icarus organizers for its article "Mad Pride Fights A Stigma". The article gained widespread international attention and resulted in a doubling of web traffic for the Icarus website. The Times also did an audio report that include Icarus member Steven Morgan, and Will Hall of Icarus and Freedom Center was featured in the philanthropy section of the Forbes magazine website.  We feel these are significant watersheds in public awareness of the diversity of experiences around mental health diagnoses and the importance of Icarus' positive message of creativity, hope, and options for people struggling with emotional distress.

Icarus members have spoken at events around the country, including a graduate school in Portland Oregon, residents at a medical facility in NYC, a NYC bookstore event, a public talk for mental health professionals in Warsaw Poland, and the NASCO student cooperative conference in Michigan. Icaristas Neil and Eddy will be traveling to an international conference in Oxford UK soon, and Icarus activists are organizing a wellness center at the Republican Convention protest in Minneapolis  - stay tuned for more info on these developments.

On an organizational level Icarus continues to strengthen our administrative capacity and accountability structure, including forming working groups for areas like the support network and media, increasing in volunteer activity, and slowly increasing the number of people involved in the Icarus decisioning making body. We also recently completed a long-term website development project dramatically improving the functionality of the website, and have other changes in the works to help make the online experience better and more useful for Icarus members and visitors. This spring, feedback generated from an Icarus "Women's Encuentro" was used to help transition to a new structure that is more grassroots and empowering. And thanks to Mimi in the NY office for all her administrative, distribution and budget organizing.

Looking back at the past six months it's clear The Icarus Project is all over the map. And we like it that way! Our style of mad organizing can also be challenging: when we shoot for the moon we sometimes end up in flames on the launch pad. The wild successes are truly stunning, and when things don't work out quite right it still all feels worth it. Depressed and painful are mixed in with the exciting and joyful, as we live this project as fully and as deeply as we live our lives. Thanks to all the countless collaborators and co-conspirators conjuring their magic to keep Icarus soaring.


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