The Need We Hope ICI Connect Will Meet

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Why Inner Compass Initiative Was Built

Over the years that I’ve been writing and speaking about my personal experiences as an ex-psychiatric patient, I’ve been afforded opportunities to communicate about the state of the mental health system with thousands of people from all around the world, including current and former psychiatric patients and users of psychiatric drugs, family members and friends of people in the mental health system, researchers, educators, lawyers, psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and counselors. As we’ve had these discussions about our many varied struggles with the mental health system and our belief in the necessity and possibility of change, three things have grown abundantly clear to me:

  1. The current mental health system has failed many of us and those we care about.
  2. There are many of us out there who see the failures of the mental health system and are looking for a different way forward, but we are often isolated from one another, leaving us feeling disempowered and alone.
  3. To really begin to change the way things are, we need a central hub that connects people to information and resources as well as with each other—in the “real world” outside of virtual forums alone—so that we can take more effective action.

Nearly two years ago, fueled by a vision for what this central hub might look like, I and a few others began the work of building Inner Compass Initiative (ICI) and one of its first efforts, The Withdrawal Project (TWP). Two websites, 400 web pages, and 180,000 words later, it is with equal parts exhaustion and elation that I announce our public launch. In many ways, the real effort is only now beginning—and that’s where you come in.

Why Your Involvement is So Important

Nearly every day, I receive messages from people asking me things like:

  • “I am a former psychiatric patient trying to put together the pieces of my life and make sense of what happened to me while I was in the mental health system. Do you know anyone in my town/city who’s in a similar position? I feel totally alone and confused. I could really use someone to talk this all through with — someone who ‘gets it’.”
  • “Do you know anyone in my area who has a family member who’s struggling in the mental health system? I am trying to support my loved one and I could really use some guidance from someone else who’s also been there.”
  • “I feel so alone in my practice supporting clients who don’t want to take meds or who don’t want to be given psychiatric diagnoses. I wish I had like-minded professionals to talk to.”

I know I’m not the only one who receives these kinds of messages. Virtually everyone I know who critiques the mental health system and has even a small public profile feels overwhelmed by the number of people reaching out to them in similar ways. The yearning for connection, for sharing stories, for finding like-minded people to work with towards change is strong, real and growing. We built ICI Connect to help meet these needs. It is a free online networking platform that allows members to find and connect with one other based on geographical and interest-based searching. ICI Connect is designed for anyone thinking critically about the mental health system — whether they’ve been in it themselves as a patient, have had family members or friends who have been or are in it, or work in it in a professional capacity.

How Will ICI Connect Work?

This platform will work — we hope! — by helping to connect individuals who share similar experiences and interests but might otherwise never know that they live minutes away from each other. By using the internet to connect people in the real world, we hope to create opportunities that otherwise would be lost to isolation, alienation, or fear — but in order for ICI Connect to grow into the robust, powerful community-organizing tool that it was created to be, it needs members. It needs you. It needs all of us who are asking questions and thinking critically about the mental health system, together, to join it, and be available to each other through it.

So, I encourage you to first take some time to explore the ICI website and get a sense of what we have to offer (which you can learn more about here). Then, take a closer look at what the ICI Connect platform is all about. If you feel aligned with our values, please join!

Your voice, your experiences, your questions, your struggles, and your wisdom are vital to building a future beyond the mental health system. It’s time to come together and cultivate change, one connection, one neighborhood, one community at a time. I’m eager to walk side-by-side with you into 2018 as we launch Inner Compass Initiative and ICI Connect!

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