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Social Justice and Communty Engagement


Social Justice and Community Engagement


Psychiatric frameworks are used as the primary lens in the Western world to understand, define, describe, and categorize the experience of mental distress in individuals. The Icarus Project is a community mental health organization that has a focus on intersectionality and uses a social justice lens to look at experiences of mental distress. Members of The Icarus Project believe that they possess knowledge about the potential benefits that exist in the space between brilliance and madness as a community of individuals with lived experience of mental distress. Members believe that, through this knowledge, they can instill a sense of hope and inspiration for those who experience distress and suffering, which they argue is often due to social injustices and inequities. Using Foucaultian Discourse Analysis (FDA) this research examines four documents published by The Icarus Project. The research question for this research project is twofold. The first research question is: to what extent does The Icarus Project rely on psychiatry? The second research question is: how is “expertise” defined by The Icarus Project? How does The Icarus Project mobilize this expertise? The results from this analysis demonstrate that while the publications created by The Icarus Project use language that challenges dominant psychiatric paradigms about “mental illness” and what it means to experience emotional distress and suffering. The documents produced by The Icarus Project demonstrate the organizations effort to create space for people who accept psychiatric paradigms and those who do not. The documents reviewed for this project also demonstrate the commitment of the members of The Icarus Project’s work to create new and better healing spaces by distributing knowledge generated by people who have experience with madness themselves. Promoting the expertise of those with lived experience of madness is a central focus of the project. The Icarus Project provides an example of how people with lived experience can generate and distribute their knowledge and share it with others in similar circumstances. However, there are still opportunities for the project to increase the accessibility of the language used in their documents as well as highlight more clearly the intersection of race and distress, and to clearly articulate the project’s definition of expertise. The Icarus Project demonstrates that biomedical models of mental distress are not the only available discourse and that we can think about distress, and in turn healing, differently.