Laura is a founder and the Executive Director of Inner Compass Initiative (ICI) and The Withdrawal Project. The passion she feels for the mission and vision of ICI arises from the fourteen years she spent lost in the mental health system and the journey that she’s been on since 2010, when she chose to leave behind a “mentally ill” identity and the various treatments that came with it, and gradually began to rediscover and reconnect with who she really was and what it means to suffer, struggle, and be human in this world. Through her personal journey she’s come to believe that the darkest parts of ourselves are often our best teachers, and that our pain is something to listen to, lean into, explore, learn and grow from—not fear, suppress, run away from, or pathologize and seek to shut down.
Since becoming an “ex-patient”, Laura has been writing and speaking about her personal experiences and about the broader social and political issues sitting at the heart of “mental illness” and “mental health”. Since 2011, she has worked both within and beyond the mental health system. In the Boston area, she worked for nearly two years for a large community mental health organization, providing support to and advocating for the rights of individuals in emergency rooms, psychiatric hospitals, and institutional “group home” settings. After leaving the “inside” of the mental health system, she began consulting with individuals and families seeking help during the psychiatric drug withdrawal process. Laura has also given talks and workshops in Europe and across North America, facilitated mutual-aid groups for people in withdrawal, and organized various conferences and public events such as the Mad in America International Film Festival.
Today, Laura sees the experiences that get called “mental illness” not as sicknesses, but rather as opportunities to deepen our connections with ourselves and with each other – and through Inner Compass Initiative and The Withdrawal Project, she is eager to help create spaces and opportunities for all of us to do this important “rehumanizing” work together.