Check out all the places where Jacks and Sascha will be offering readings and workshops in conjunction with the release of our new books, and the revised 10th printing of Navigating the Space Between Brilliance and Madness.
Forum member fluidity published this article in The Dominion: News from the Grassroots. Please go there are grab the PDFs if you want print-ready vewing.
People are Mad. And they’re doing something about it.
Mental health awareness is gradually gaining ground, and so are radical alternatives to mainstream approaches. Community-based initiatives by and for the so-called crazies amongst us tend to be kept under the radar in Canada, challenging discrimination, providing peer support and advocating for a diversity of perspectives on mental health, its treatment and justice.
Grassroots movements around mental health have a rich and often unacknowledged history, with many activities falling under the relatively recent name of Mad Pride. The movement is also sometimes called the C/S/X movement, which stands for Consumers (of mental health services), Survivors (of the psychiatric system), and eX-patients (who have moved on to live outside the mental health services systems).
So much has changed in the nine years since we originally published this book that we both wonder sometimes if our lives are a movie or a dream. The Icarus Project is no longer fueled by the obsessive energy of two people working at a frenzied pace and holding it all together with lithium and duct tape. These days the project is supported by a network of madfolks and allies all over the world.
Last Fall we celebrated our tenth anniversary with art shows, performance nights, and skillshares on both coasts. Our publications have been translated into Spanish, French, German, Italian, Hebrew, and Croatian. People are using Icarus materials in college classrooms and hatching plans for Madness Studies as an academic discipline. Our posters and info sheets are handed out as materials to youth advocates and peer specialists around the country. There are local Icarus inspired groups in places as far flung as North Dakota and India.
In 1973 the academic journal Science published an article called On Being Sane in Insane Places. It documented the findings of an experiment by psychologist David Rosenhan designed to test the validity of psychiatric diagnosis. The first part of Rosenhan’s study involved eight ‘sane’ people feigning auditory hallucinations to see if they could get committed into psychiatric institutions. What is interesting about the experiment is not the ease with which the participants successfully feigned mental illness, but the difficulty they had, once inside the system, of proving themselves sane. Although none of the participants showed any further symptoms it took up to 52 days for them to be released, and even then only then when they accepted diagnosis of irreversible lifelong conditions such as schizophrenia. So what? That’s pretty much what I thought until I got diagnosed with bipolar.
I woke up this morning and there it was again, I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother. This essay is all over the internet, written by a woman who is using her personal story about experiences with her “mentally ill” son, whom she is “terrified of,” to appeal for more dialogue on the issue of mental health. As I write this, her son’s picture has been viewed by over a million people. They have read her accounts of what may be some of these young man’s most painful childhood memories.
This is a call for submissions to a zine I am compiling, which will include self-portraits and descriptions of one’s own madness/mental health issues as a DSM alternative. The idea for my zine is that labels like Bipolar I, Schizophrenia, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder are dehumanizing and cannot capture how beautiful and diverse and complex madness is. I want to create a translator from DSM to mad pride- sort of like an alternative guidebook for understanding madness rather than the DSM.
One of my friends said, what should we do? Should we have regular red flag check ins with each other, the way we do about relationships? Should I go up to you and ask, Have you been thinking about killing yourself lately? And I thought, if anyone came at me saying, HAVE YOU THOUGHT ABOUT KILLING YOURSELF LATELY?, I'd automatically lie and say hell no. The way I have to every single doctor, social worker and most therapists in my life. I don't want anything I can prevent on my permanent record, and I definitely don't want Danger to Self or Others. I've been fighting this my whole life, and I've seen the oppression and hardness that that label can mean to folks in my life who've had it.
But if you normalized it. Because it is normal. This secret. That so many of us wrestle with suicidality. Then maybe, maybe just maybe I'd tell you where it was at.
And maybe we could map the terrain of those ideation places better.