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Kalamazoo College 2015 Global Prize Finalist: The Icarus Project

Kalamazoo College has announced the ten finalists for its 2015 Global Prize for Transformative Social Justice Leadership, a juried competition hosted by the College’s Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership. Finalists will present during a Prize Weekend, Oct. 9-11, and one project will receive a $25,000 prize. Below is one in a series of profiles on the ten finalists.

We invite individuals who are familiar with this project to use our Community Input form to comment on its “grassrootedness” and transformative leadership practices. Input received before September 8 will be submitted to our jurors. Please see videos submitted by each finalist, as well as our rubric and other information about the Global Prize here.

2015 Global Prize Finalist The Icarus ProjectThe Icarus Project

In the hustle and bustle, dog-eat-dog, success-driven culture in which we live, those who struggle with depression, anxiety, or a host of other mental health issues are often stigmatized as weak by a society that almost demands a person toughen-up and trudge through their personal struggles.

But the issues are real, and those who struggle with a mental illness need to be supported in developing a self-determined path of healing and acceptance that helps them realize they are normal in a world they often view as anything but.

That’s where the The Icarus Project comes in, a support network and media project by and for people who experience the world in ways that are often diagnosed as mental illness.

The group advances social justice by fostering mutual aid and organizing practices that reconnect healing and collective liberation, transforming participants through altering the world around them.

“The work of being well in the face of madness is a revolutionary process and empowering change against unjust policies is a daily struggle,” says Maryse Mitchell-Brody, development coordinator and ally liaison for the organization.

The project does this work through education, visibility and international exchange. Workshops, an online and social media presence, and a wide array of resources provide individuals and communities with frameworks for radical healing. The group was formed 12 years ago and operates nationwide and in several countries.

Their work shifts conceptions of mental wellness and directly impacts how psychiatrists, therapists and institutions address emotional distress around the world.

The organization’s ‘Mad Maps’ project provides people with tools to transform themselves and their cultures and communities, tailoring content to the needs of specific constituencies that are often doubly stigmatized for their race or how they identify, such as people of color, LGBT folks, and immigrants.

“We aim to ensure this is participatory endeavor with all involved,” says Mitchell-Brody. “We are continuing to build experience. So many peoples’ lives are at stake in this struggle.”

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About Andy Brown

As the Director of Media Relations and Online Content, I share the stories that distinguish Kalamazoo College through social media, the Web and the news media. Contact me at abrown@kzoo.edu.