The Genesis of INTAR – the International Network for Treatment Alternatives and Recovery – Peter Statsny
By Peter Stastny

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. The list of participants is available at

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 organizational, 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 ther respective endeavours for several decades, being founders or leaders of important organizations in their respective countries.

Over the years, activists from the following countries participated in INTAR meetings:

The Netherlands
New Zealand
United Kingdom

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.) (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 conference held in Liverpool in June 2014 was attended by over 300 individuals from a large number of countries. INTAR is the only collaborative network that spans three continents and is ready to embrace the world at large, including Asia and Africa.

Unlike other organizations, INTAR is an open network without officers, paid staff, a board of directors and other bureaucratic trappings. It aims to collaborate with local outfits, such as the Bapu Trust of Pune, India, to advance its goals and to stage events of international reach that are firmly rooted in local structures and alliances. At this time, INTAR has no operating budget and has raised funds in the past in association with non-profit organizations such as:

The Center for the Study of Recovery in Social Contexts, Orangeburg, NY, USA
Community Access, New York, NY, USA
The Leadership Project, Toronto, Canada
Mental Disability Rights International, Washington DC, USA
The Second Opinion Society, Vancouver Island, Canada
The University of Liverpool, UK
Windhorse Associates, Northhampton, MA, USA

Each new event is planned by an ad hoc group composed of “old hands” and newer activists. Currently, the planning group consists of the following active members:

Michaela Amering (Austria)
Bhargavi Davar (India)
Elena Demke (Germany)
Sabine Dick (Germany)
Gerard Julien/Vincent Gerard (France)
Ute Kraemer (Germany/UK)
Liam MacGabhann (Ireland)
Brian McKinnon (Canada)
Peter Stastny (Austria)
Liz Brosnan (Ireland)
With the assistance of:
Will Hall and Krista MacKinnon