The International Network Towards Alternatives and Recovery (INTAR) is a global network of individuals with a shared view that existing approaches to mental health services provision and understanding distress and altered states are untenable.
Around 2003, a group of mental health activists in New York State got together with friends from Canada to discuss the formation of an international network of individuals who have worked successfully in advancing true alternatives to the traditional mental health system. We knew that few such alternatives existed around the world and assumed that by bringing together as many of these pioneers, along with other vociferous advocates, we might be able to harness their energy and spread the word to many other communities.
This vision has succeeded in part, even though institutional mental health has resisted the advance of these non-medical, rational and effective alternatives. The original founding group (Laurie Ahern, Karyn Baker, Ron Bassman, Jeanne Dumont, Connie Packard, Darby Penny, Loren Mosher and Peter Stastny) managed to convene 40 activists and practitioners from 11 countries for a 3-day working meeting (November 2004) at the Race Brook Lodge in Sheffield, MA, which led to the formulation of a mission statement and a strategic plan.

A large percentage, if not the majority, of the participants in this first meeting were “experts by experience” in addition to fulfilling a variety of organisational, professional and academic roles. A number of us were active in providing support/”clinical” services, as well as in conducting research. Most had been active in their respective endeavours for several decades, being founders or leaders of important organizations in their respective countries. Over the years, activists from over 35 countries have participated in dialogue, INTAR meetings and organisation of events.

Several more or less focused conferences in the US, Canada, Ireland and UK (sadly, so far, only in Anglophone countries) have brought together some of these experts in alternatives with a larger public and at times have spawned concrete results in the public mental health and advocacy fields. In particular, the 2009 conference on Alternate Responses to First Breaks held in New York City, attracted a number of mental health planners who picked up on some of the concrete suggestions presented at the meeting. At the same time, several papers were commissioned around the topic of First Breaks by the Center for the Study of Recovery in Social Contexts in collaboration with INTAR which are available in the Research section of this site. The following initiatives were either directly or indirectly inspired by INTAR participants:

  • Foundation for Excellence in Mental Health Care (Bob Whitaker et al.)
  • MadInAmerica.com (Bob Whitaker)
  • Open Dialogue UK (Nick Putnam)
  • Parachute NYC – 4 mobile teams practicing NATM & 4 crisis respite houses (Peter Stastny et al)
  • Santa Cruz County Peer Run Respite House (Yana Jacobs & Seana O’Callaghan) Soteria Alaska (Jim Gottstein et al)
  • Windhorse San Luis Obispo
  • Mental Health Trialogue Network Ireland (Liam MacGabhann & Paddy McGowan)

The most recent INTAR intervention was INTAR India 2016 (see INTAR.org for details) which signaled a huge transition for INTAR in their engagement with partners from the global south, particularly Asia and Africa, partnerships that continue to be fostered in our planning for next large gathering in Kenya 2019.
INTAR has always existed as a flattened structure with no institutional ties or anchors that require organisational definition or allegiance. This has been one of the most positive aspects of the organisational evolution and at the same time creates a challenge when we are trying to grow, develop, and provide transparency in our processes and organisation of interventions. The Healthy Living Centre at DCU, as a community health and well-being provider, without conflict of interest to the values of INTAR is a perfect project partner to host INTAR.