Last Monday night, I attend a NYC Icarus Project Peer Support Group. The weekly meeting, hosted at the A.J. Muste Building, between Bleecker and Lafayette Street, is a place of congregation for people “living with and/or affected by experiences that are often diagnosed and labeled as psychiatric conditions,” as the Icarus Project website explains. I don’t identify with a diagnostic mental condition, but I attended the meeting to learn more about the support group for people who mostly do, or who have been in therapy or on medication for mental support. As the website states, Icarus is a place for people to express themselves freely with a goal to help members “overcome alienation and tap into the true potential that lies between brilliance and madness.”
The non-profit project is a public, network that unites people of different ages, genders, sexualities, and professions, under the premise that they’re engaging in a community they can relate and contribute to because of their experiences. Those who’ve participated in The Icarus Project Peer Support Group consider it an invaluable recourse in maintaining mental health. “It is extremely empowering to listen and be present with others,” said last weeks support group facilitator, G. She requested her initial be used when being quoted and/or referred to. “I recognize that I’m not alone in my struggle with mental illness.”
Founded in 2002, by Sascha Altman DuBrul and Ashley McNamara, the project began as a website. The site is still maintained but has since expanded to include autonomous support groups located in cities and campuses throughout the country. The NYC group is among them. Funded by The Fiscal Sponsorship of FJC, The Icarus Projects Peer Support Groups of New York City also include a New York University Campus group. It’s available to students seeking support beyond the mental health services their university offers and instead within the Icarus community.
During the group meeting, peers openly made comments about their conditions. “I’m a multiple,” “I’m delusional,” “I’m angry,” they said. Though these men and women were comfortable labeling themselves, at least within the setting of an Icarus group meeting, The Icarus Project strives to create a new outlook on mental conditions by advocating them as “dangerous gifts to be cultivated and taken care of, rather than a disease or disorder to be suppressed or eliminated.” The group is not funded by any pharmaceutical drug companies and encourages people to seek alternative means to finding a healthy state of mind beyond just the use of psychiatric drugs. However, the group does not reject or defy anyone who does take psychiatric drugs and who may not identify themselves within diagnostic categories. Icarus is an atmosphere for people to become empowered by learning from and sharing experiences with others and carry this power over into their every day lives beyond the Icarus community. As G elaborated about her own experience, “Becoming an Icarista has shattered my assumptions and preconceived notions of others and has taught me a clearer, more respectful way of communicating.”
Furthermore, in the most expensive city in the Country, it’s a unique luxury to have recourse like this available for free. While many students seeking mental health support can receive counseling at their schools at discounted costs, Icarus provides a haven to people who might not otherwise have any recourses available to them, or the finances to afford them either. Even if they did, it seemed to me that the group members really valued the exclusive and unique energy found at Icarus because they were among people who understood first hand what they’ve struggled with. The group expressed appreciation for each other and the project because of its stance on mental conditions that differs from those of other people, therapists, and groups some people had encountered before. As G said, “I think the fact that Icarus is free and public is wonderful. It’s an invaluable resource and I have met incredible people and a real community.”
For more information’s visit. http://theicarusproject.net/