Icarus Project

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This article is about the "Icarus" mental health concept. For other uses of the phrase "Project Icarus", see Icarus (disambiguation).

The Icarus Project is a media and activist endeavor that is part of a larger consumer/survivor/ex-patient mental health movement characterized by the view that many phenomena commonly labeled as 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, Sascha Altman DuBrul wrote "Bipolar World", an article published in the San Francisco Bay Guardian, relating to his personal 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 (now known as Jacks) McNamara, an artist and writer who identified strongly with his experiences.[1] DuBrul and McNamara corresponded for a few weeks before finally meeting in person and deciding to start The Icarus Project with Bonfire Madigan Shive.[2]

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."[3]


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.[4] The Project advocates self-determination and caution when approaching psychiatric care. It encourages harm reduction, alternatives to the medical model, and self-determination in treatment and diagnosis.

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.[5] The Icarus Project does not accept funding from pharmaceutical companies.[4]

The Icarus Project network[edit]

A full listing of local Icarus affiliated groups can be found on The Icarus Project's website.[6]

Some of the local groups currently meet in

  • Anchorage, Alaska
  • Asheville, North Carolina
  • Atlanta, Georgia
  • Boston, Massachusetts
  • Chicago, Illinois
  • Los Angeles, California (Wildflowers' Movement)
  • 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


  • 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.[7]
  • Maryse Mitchell-Brody (2007). 'The Icarus Project: Dangerous Gifts, Iridescent Visions and Mad CommunityAlternatives'. 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.[8]
  • 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.[9]

Media mentions[edit]

The Icarus Project has been mentioned in the New York Times,[10] by Frontline 20/20, and many local media outlets.[11][12]


  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. ^ News feature, East Bay Express, 3 August 2005.
  4. ^ a b theicarusproject.net [1]
  5. ^ :"TIP: Financial Reports". The Icarus Project. Retrieved 2010-08-11. 
  6. ^ "View Forum - Local Meetups and Community Organizing". Icarus Project. Retrieved 2010-08-11. 
  7. ^ publications Archived October 30, 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ [2][dead link]
  9. ^ "Harm Reduction Guide To Coming Off Psychiatric Drugs & Withdrawal". The Icarus Project. 2008-04-23. Retrieved 2010-08-11. 
  10. ^ Heffernan, Virginia (2010-04-16). "Psycho-Babble - An Online Support Group". The New York Times. 
  11. ^ 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. 
  12. ^ Jansen, Steve (2010-07-30). "Mental Health Collective Inaugural Meeting - Phoenix Art - Jackalope Ranch". Blogs.phoenixnewtimes.com. Retrieved 2010-08-11. 

External links[edit]