Icarus Project

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The Icarus Project is a media and activist endeavor broadly aligned to anti-psychiatry, arguing that mental illness should actually be regarded as "dangerous gifts". The name is derived from Icarus, a hero in Greek mythology, and is metaphorically used to convey that these experiences can lead to "potential[ly] flying dangerously close to the sun." [1]


In 2002, musician Sascha Altman DuBrul wrote "Bipolar World", an article published in the San Francisco Bay Guardian. The article described his experiences being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Among the dozens of e-mails and other correspondence that he received after this publication was a letter from Ashley McNamara, now known as Jacks, an artist and writer who identified strongly with DuBrul's experiences.[1] DuBrul and McNamara corresponded for a few weeks before finally meeting in person and deciding to start The Icarus Project with musician-activist Bonfire Madigan Shive.[2] DuBrul has been quoted as saying that he has "superpowers" due to his alleged acute sensitivity to his surroundings.[3]

The first step, they decided, was creating a website where people who identified with "bipolar and other 'mental illness' [could] find real community and contribute to it."[4]


The Icarus Project's stated aims are to provide a viable alternative to current methods of approaching and treating mental illnesses. The national Icarus Collective staff is set up to support local groups instead of creating the smaller organizations themselves. The responsibilities of the local group are to gather people locally for support, education, activism, and access to alternatives to mainstream medical diagnosis and treatment.[5] The Project advocates self-determination and caution when approaching psychiatric care. It encourages harm reduction, alternatives to the prevailing medical model that is accepted by the vast majority of mental health professionals, and self-determination in treatment and diagnosis.

Journalist Jennifer Itzenson[3] notes that the Icarus Project accepts those with a wide range of perspectives on mental health issues, but also describes "an edge of militancy within the group," particularly among those who reject medication. Itzenson also writes that while medical professionals applaud groups like the Icarus Project for providing a sense of support and community, and combating social stigmas related to bipolar and other mental health issues, the group's questioning of the medical paradigm is "misguided" and that rejecting medication is a "potentially fatal choice" for those with bipolar disorder.

As of early 2016, none of the staff or advisory council of the Icarus Project have any training, education, certification or licensing in any medical, mental health, social work or related disciplines. The groups's leadership and members tend to describe themselves as artists and other creative types.[3]

Structure / funding[edit]

The Icarus Project is currently under the fiscal sponsorship of FJC, a non-profit 501(c)3 umbrella organization arm of an investment firm, based in New York City. The Icarus Project currently gets the bulk of its money from foundation grants, but also has many individual donors. There has been considerable talk for many years of alternate funding structures, and efforts are currently underway to explore 501c3 and cooperative structures. The Icarus Project maintains a financial transparency page which is current as of 2010, receiving grants totaling $16,000 and individual donations of about $3,500.[6] The Icarus Project does not accept funding from pharmaceutical companies.[5]

The Icarus Project network[edit]

A full listing of local Icarus affiliated groups can be found on The Icarus Project's website.[7]

Some of the local groups currently meet in

  • Anchorage, Alaska
  • Asheville, North Carolina
  • Atlanta, Georgia
  • Boston, Massachusetts
  • Chicago, Illinois
  • Los Angeles, California (Wildflowers' Movement)[8]
  • Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • Madison, Wisconsin
  • New York City, New York
  • Northampton, Massachusetts (Freedom Center)
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Portland, Oregon
  • San Francisco (Bay Area), California
  • Columbus, Ohio
  • Gainesville, Florida

Media mentions[edit]

The Icarus Project has been mentioned in passing in The New York Times as a resource for those who "don't want to 'get better'",[9] by Frontline 20/20, and many local media outlets.[10][11]


  • Navigating the Space Between Brilliance and Madness; A Reader and Roadmap of Bipolar Worlds, was self-published by the Icarus Project in March 2004. The book is currently in its 6th printing.[12]
  • Maryse Mitchell-Brody (2007). 'The Icarus Project: Dangerous Gifts, Iridescent Visions and Mad Community Alternatives'. In Peter Stastny & Peter Lehmann (Eds.), Alternatives Beyond Psychiatry (pp. 137–145). Berlin / Eugene / Shrewsbury: Peter Lehmann Publishing. ISBN 978-0-9545428-1-8 (UK), ISBN 978-0-9788399-1-8 (USA)
  • Maryse Mitchell-Brody (2007). 'Das Ikarus-Projekt. Gefährliche Begabungen, schillernde Visionen und eine Gemeinschaft von Verrückten'. In Peter Lehmann & Peter Stastny (Eds.), Statt Psychiatrie 2 (pp. 141–149). Berlin / Eugene / Shrewsbury: Antipsychiatrieverlag. ISBN 978-3-925931-38-3.
  • In July, 2006, The Icarus Project released the first draft of Friends Make the Best Medicine: A Guide to Creating Community Mental Health Support Networks.[13]
  • In 2008 The Icarus Project released Through the Labyrinth; A Harm Reduction Guide to Coming Off Psychiatric Drugs, and in 2009 this publication was translated into Spanish and German and made available for free download on the Icarus Project website.[14]


  1. ^ a b theicarusproject organizational/origins-and-purpose Archived October 19, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ Packebush, Nina (May 12, 2014). "Mutha Interviews Bonfire Madigan Shive". Mutha Magazine. Retrieved January 1, 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c Columbia News Service, Nov 1, 2005 - A new movement views bipolar disorder as a dangerous gift - By Jennifer Itzenson
  4. ^ News feature, East Bay Express, 3 August 2005.
  5. ^ a b theicarusproject.net Archived 2007-02-24 at the Wayback Machine.
  6. ^ "TIP: Financial Reports". The Icarus Project. Archived from the original on 2011-07-23. Retrieved 2010-08-11. 
  7. ^ "View Forum - Local Meetups and Community Organizing". Icarus Project. Retrieved 2010-08-11. 
  8. ^ "Wildflowers' Movement: Mindful Peer Support, Self-Awareness, and Radical Wellness". Wildflowers' Movement. Retrieved 15 April 2017. 
  9. ^ Heffernan, Virginia (2010-04-16). "Psycho-Babble - An Online Support Group". The New York Times. 
  10. ^ Jill Carlson on Friday 07/17/2009, (1) Comment (2009-07-17). "Saying no to drugs with Mad Pride - Isthmus | The Daily Page". Isthmus. Retrieved 2010-08-11. 
  11. ^ Jansen, Steve (2010-07-30). "Mental Health Collective Inaugural Meeting - Phoenix Art - Jackalope Ranch". Blogs.phoenixnewtimes.com. Retrieved 2010-08-11. 
  12. ^ publications Archived October 30, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  13. ^ [1][dead link]
  14. ^ "Harm Reduction Guide To Coming Off Psychiatric Drugs & Withdrawal". The Icarus Project. 2008-04-23. Retrieved 2010-08-11. 

External links[edit]