Marie Claire (USA)
Self-Determination SUPPORTERS THE FIREWEED COLLECTIVE
Nationwide mental-healtheducation and mutualaid group
“We are the best people to decide what we need and want in any moment.”
THE FIREWEED COLLECTIVE is the phoenix that, in 2020, rose from the ashes of the Icarus Project, a long-running mental-health community that shuttered after “grievances about an organizational culture that harmed” those who are marginalized. Fireweed repurposed the best of the former entity—a commitment to helping people with mental-health issues—and added a lens focusing on the very communities that were deprioritized previously. “We’re making spaces for people to come to a better relationship with their own mental health and the people around them,” says Antoinette Chen See, a member of Fireweed’s education team.
Fireweed’s programming includes weekly support groups for low-income people, immigrants, and new parents, among others; monthly dance parties; and webinars. One of the latter, hosted by collective member Elliott Fukui, “illustrated how prison and psychiatric abolition are intrinsically tied.” For Chen See, it was one of the most impactful and memorable thus far. Bolstering Fukui’s argument is research published in the journal BMC Public Health showing that mental illness is two to four times more common in jails and prisons than in the general population. In a time of calls for defunding police (who are often the first interveners during a mental-health crisis), the education and healing-justice philosophy used by Fireweed is essential for its community.
“We’re looking forward to seeing the ways people implement healing and disability justice into their daily lives,” Chen See says. “We’re looking forward to people realizing that we can rely on each other and that we are all intelligent and the best people to decide what we need and want in any moment.”