Mad Maps

Share +


an upcoming Icarus Project publication

What are Mad Maps?

In a world that seals up the side trails, hidden doors and underground caves, forcing us all to walk the arbitrary straight path of so-called normalcy, The Icarus Project is perhaps the last respite left for exploring the art of getting lost. Fueled by hope and creativity, our members have been artfully forging roads and making maps that define our journeys with mental health struggles in the context of a crookedly beautiful world. We have called these cartographic musings Mad Maps.

Mad Maps are documents that we create for ourselves as reminders of our goals, what is important to us, our personal signs of struggle and our strategies for self-determined well-being. Through sharing our maps, we can identify our common struggles and come together to transform the world around us. Though originally inspired by the idea of Advanced Directives (legal documents to share with doctors and friends in the event of being hospitalized), over time this idea has evolved further to include a transformative element.

How do we move beyond adapting and coping, toward actually changing the world that we live in?

How do we do this together, despite all our wounds? How do we find unity across causes?

How do we grapple with the imprints of histories of oppression that stretch back through time, from before we were even born, but still affect us today?

By creating documents that help us to explore our mad gifts and better understand and get through tough times, we are able to re-envision the boundaries of our individual and collective potential.


The Mad Maps project is designed to incorporate the collective wisdom and distinct voices of The Icarus Project members through use of content from the forums, community discussions, polls and workshops. We aim to explore the following issues:

I. Madness and Oppression. Mental health does not exist in a socio-political vacuum. In this section we will reflect on the role that race, gender, class, the economic system and institutional violence may play in our experiences of madness.

II. The Madness from Generations Past. As discoveries from the new scientific field of epigenetics emerge we learn that the experiences of our ancestors are passed through the next generation, affecting the way we deal with stress and anxiety. Mapping the life of our generations past will help us understand ourselves better, as well as be mindful of the inheritance we leave for the generation to come.

III. Our Personal Map. Understanding ourselves, our gifts, our landscapes and how to navigate them. Coping with challenges, crisis and triggers. Reaching our goals for social and emotional wellness.

IV. Dreaming New Worlds. Mapping paths to the community and the world we want to live in.


The Mad Maps resource is being created through a dynamic and collaborative process that involves collecting feedback from the Icarus community and diverse allies. Through a series of community discussions and inquiries, basic topic categories are identified and digital polls are created for the purpose of gathering ideas, insights, and experiences from a diverse array of people. By “crowdsourcing” the content of this resource, The Icarus Project has created an opportunity for wide community contribution and representative perspectives.

In addition to the use of digital polls to gather content, for each topic area a small workbook will be created and shared with Icarus local groups and other dispersed community allies as part of an inquiry-driven workshop series. Feedback on the workbooks and the experience of working with them will be shared with Mad Maps project coordinators and included in the resource. Artwork from Icarus-hosted events such as art shows and poetry slams will be included as well. From this process a comprehensive series of Mad Maps tools will be created and assembled into a final publication. This publication will be made available both for sale as a printed book and for free as a pdf download on our website