About Inner Compass Initiative

Our Inspiration

We believe that within each and every person lies an innate wisdom — an “inner compass”. This wisdom, when listened to, helps us to navigate the difficulties of being human. But the mental health industry, with its medicalized model of “mental illness” and “mental health”, its pharmaceuticalized and institutionalized standards of care, its massive promotional and public relations apparatus, its legalized authority, and its professionalization of help, has influenced many of us to ignore and lose touch with this inner wisdom.

Inner Compass Initiative strives to contribute towards everyone reclaiming wisdom, knowledge and power, both within us as individuals and between us in our relationships and communities. We work to support individuals to engage in curious, critical, independent self-education and inner exploration, and collectively, to help develop more interconnected, empowered and resilient grassroots communities.

Our Vision

A future of interconnected individuals and communities flourishing beyond the mental health system.

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Our Guiding Principles and Values

  • We believe that most individuals’ inner crises emerge, develop and/or persist in relation to their social circumstances, and that establishing more just, equitable, creatively diverse, and environmentally sustainable societies is vitally important to everyone’s mental, spiritual and emotional well-being.
  • We believe that we all have a right to protect the integrity of our own minds, spirits and bodies against forced or coercive psychiatric intervention.
  • We believe that we all have a right to make our own choices about how to take care of ourselves, but that true choice is only possible when it’s fully informed and supported by the existence of different meaningful options. The carefully controlled research agendas and widespread and deep-reaching promotion and communications efforts of today’s profit-driven mental health industry make fully informed choice essentially impossible. Therefore, vigorous efforts at the grassroots must be made to counter misinformation so that we can all reclaim the right to true choice.
  • We believe that the understandings, approaches and contributions of people who are not medical or mental health professionals — such as current and former psychiatric patients, artists, political thinkers, cultural critics, philosophers, inner explorers and spiritual seekers — are too often marginalized or ignored in public discussions about “mental health”, “mental disorders”, “psychological crises”, and meeting the spiritual, mental and emotional challenges of being human.
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Our Mission

Inner Compass Initiative provides information, resources, tools, and connecting platforms ​to facilitate more informed choices regarding all things "mental health" and to support individuals and groups around the world who ​wish to leave, bypass, or build community beyond the mental health system. Specifically, we work to facilitate the development of:

  • Public education and research projects about the mental health system, mental health interventions, and psychiatric drug withdrawal that are not sponsored or controlled by the pharmaceutical industry, the mental health industry, or mental health professionals.
  • Self-education and self-empowerment resources that help individuals more successfully guide themselves through the challenges of being human and living in modern society in ways that are more aligned with their deepest needs and their own “inner compass”.
  • In-person, local opportunities for people to offer different types of nonprofessional mutual aid, support and inspiration to each other outside the mental health system.
  • New, independent local and regional groups and organizations that are aligned with ICI’s values and mission and wish to cultivate support, education, advocacy, activism or community building.
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Who We Are and How We’re Funded

Inner Compass Initiative (ICI) is a U.S.-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. We are currently supported by private donors through the Michael Fund, a Morgan Stanley Global Impact Funding Trust, and through the Healthy Choice Fund, a J.P. Morgan Charitable Giving Fund. We are actively seeking to grow our base of support.

We are not a “mental health” organization. We are a social-change organization. We come to this work through our own personal encounters with and experiences in the mental health system, whether as patients, family members and friends of patients, independent researchers, or critically-minded practitioners. Our core team is comprised of a full-time Executive Director and a small number of part-time paid and volunteer staff, who work in collaboration with a growing network of energized contributors and volunteers from around the world whose outrage, frustration, pain, grief, hope, power, research, work, writing and tremendous gathered wisdom are being channeled into our growing organization and website.

Though we have sometimes received comments and feedback from medical, pharmacological, and clinical practitioners of different kinds as we’ve created this website, and some of our team members, contributors, and volunteers may work as practitioners, all of the final editorial decisions related to the content on this website have been made by laypeople and are provided for general educational purposes only. None of the information and resources at Inner Compass Initiative or The Withdrawal Project constitutes or should be seen as medical, mental health, counseling, clinical or professional advice of any kind.

View our Team, Contributors and Volunteers.

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What We’re Doing

ICI currently has the following projects underway:

The Withdrawal Project (TWP). TWP is an information resource designed to help people empower themselves to make more meaningfully informed choices — aligned with their personal desires and needs — regarding taking, reducing, and coming off psychiatric drugs. TWP's website includes a free, comprehensive, self-directed Companion Guide to Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal aimed at helping people learn and make decisions about the most risk-minimizing ways to prepare for tapering off and more responsibly taper off antidepressants, benzodiazepines, stimulants, antipsychotics, mood stabilizers, Z-drugs and other psychiatric drugs, along with coping techniques for dealing with common withdrawal symptoms.

Learn/Unlearn. This section of our website includes accessible, critical analyses of the mechanisms of action, effectiveness, safety and harms of the major classes of psychiatric drugs. It also includes an ever-expanding collection of articles that provide insights into the science and marketing of psychiatric drugs, the construction and promotion of psychiatric diagnoses, and alternative ways of understanding and moving through mental and emotional challenges.

ICI Connect. This is a free online platform that helps people who are asking questions or thinking critically about the mental health system to find and connect with each other. Through geographical and interest-based searching, registered members can search for other members who live nearby to spark new friendships or collaborations, exchange mutual support, organize events or groups, set up crisis networks, or begin to build grassroots community alternatives to the mental health system. Having just launched in January of 2018, we’re actively working to increase the membership and improve the usefulness of this platform based on feedback from our members about their needs and goals.

TWP Connect. This free online platform hosted on ICI’s The Withdrawal Project website allows registered members who are thinking about, are in the process of, or have past experiences of reducing or coming off psychiatric drugs to find and connect with one another. TWP Connect facilitates mutual support, the sharing of helpful resources and tips, in-person meetings, and hope and inspiration between members. Having just launched in January of 2018, we’re actively working to increase the membership and improve the usefulness of these tools based on feedback from our members about their needs and goals.

Resources and Toolkits. We’re building an organized list of learning resources from around the web, along with toolkit guides for using them in different kinds of group discussions and community settings.

Alternatives. We’re researching and developing articles on different ways of understanding and responding to mental or emotional distress. (See also The Withdrawal Project's Cope & Heal section.)

Resilient Communities. We’re actively exploring opportunities to collaborate with other groups and organizations doing engagement and development work that helps individuals and communities increase their resilience in the face of the challenges of social fragmentation, inequity and injustice, economic instability, and environmental degradation.

Volunteers, Contributors and Allies. We’re actively seeking help from others to engage with us in working together, and we’re also looking for ways to help others who are already working in alignment with our goals.

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How You Can Join Us

Inner Compass Initiative is a grassroots collective effort whose growth and impact depend on you. The experiences you’ve lived, the hardships you’ve faced, the roadblocks you’ve had to navigate, the lessons you’ve learned, the awakenings you’ve felt or are in the midst of, and your voice — however confidently loud or hesitantly soft it may feel to you — are vital to making change happen.

You may be a current or ex-psychiatric patient, or a family member or friend of someone struggling in the mental health system. Perhaps you are an awakening or already critically-minded practitioner, a non-Western healer, or a researcher. Maybe you’re a veteran or active duty service member with experience of the Veterans Administration psychiatric system. You could be an educator, a philosopher, a journalist, an artist... If you share the values and vision of Inner Compass Initiative, we welcome you. Click here to learn how you can join us.