Helping Loved Ones in Crisis: The Icarus Project

Everyone experiences some form of trauma within their lives. Despite this, it can be pretty overwhelming when you or people you love are experiencing crisis, especially as a result of trauma. However, an organization called The Icarus Project has some tools to help.

The Icarus Project presented recently at the Allied Media Conference in Detroit, Michigan. They are an organization that “is a support network and education project by and for people who experience the world in ways that are often diagnosed as mental illness” They also “advance social justice by fostering mutual aid practices that reconnect healing and collective liberation.” You can find out more about The Icarus Project here.

The workshop first began by having the group list activities that help people when they are in crisis. Many people listed things from “putting on makeup” to “healthy isolation”. By coming up with things that help ourselves, we can better understand the different ways people practice self care. In regards to helping others, however, the speakers from The Icarus Project stressed learning about your loved ones’ coping mechanisms before they are experiencing crisis.


Some of the questions we can ask our loved ones to get this information can look like “what do the signs look like when you may be unwell?” or “who are the people you trust in your social circle?”.  It is also important to ask the individual what their relationship to hospitalization is because for some queer folks and people of color, calling an ambulance or being hospitalized could be a traumatic experience due to potential police involvement and a lack of understanding of transgender folks in the medical community. Although it is important to ask others what they may need in times of crisis, it is equally important to ask yourself what your boundaries are and what you are willing and capable to hold. Remind yourself that you don’t have to be the only one to hold it. You can always facilitate more support for yourself and your loved one.

When you are helping a loved one in crisis, here are some things to do or keep in mind. One way you can help is by practicing active listening. This means you are asking open ended questions, and affirming the pain your loved one is feeling by stating things like “that sound’s really hard”. As a friend, you also should asses for basic needs and safety and gain support from there.

In my own personal experience, I had always had a difficult time setting my own boundaries regarding emotional labor. I would often find myself trying to carry the weight of everyone’s trauma’s without addressing my own needs. This would cause me to feel overwhelmed, and sometimes, even resentful. By understanding the information I need to gain from both my loved one, and from myself, I am better able to facilitate a healthy relationship with myself and others regarding our mental health and our needs.

Although many people face struggle, it’s sometimes difficult to know what to do, especially regarding a loved one. It is important to practice active listening, discover what a loved one may need before they are experiencing crisis, and it is especially important to self reflect and discover what you are able and not able to do within that capacity. Sometimes, you can’t handle what is being given to you at the moment, and you may need to reach out for additional support. Remember, that’s ok.



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