Project LETS is a national 501(c)(3) grassroots organization led by and for folks with lived experience of mental illness, disability, trauma, & neurodivergence. We establish peer-led communities of advocacy & support; produce resources and educational materials; and aim to protect the civil and human rights of mentally ill folks through policy change — especially those who experience multiple forms of oppression and therefore are rendered especially vulnerable.
Peer support is crucial.
"Project LETS does the incredibly important work of giving people with lived experience a platform to tell their stories. No one understands as well as another consumer; and putting a face on mental illness is the best way to reduce stigma."
— Elyn Saks, Director of the Saks Institute for Mental Health Law; MacArthur Genius; Legal Scholar
Our Core Values
What do we care about? Believe in? Fight for?
Cross-movement building: We recognize the ways in which ableism is foundational to colonialism, white supremacy, gendered oppression, capitalism, and all forms of oppression. Mental illness and disability “issues” are also immigration issues, police brutality issues, etc.
Disability justice: We recognize the historical roots of the disability rights movement, founded by queer people (especially women) of color.
Self-determination: We place high value on the healing power of simply having choices and do not participate in or support coercion or forced treatment.
Need to transform mental health care system & society: We believe that, for change and healing to be sustainable and real, it must happen throughout our communities and systems. It is not solely the responsibility of each individual seeking help.
Mutual aid: We recognize the fluidity of human experiences, our various roles, and the ability of each of us to learn from one another.
Peer support: People who have lived experience with mental illness, disability, trauma, and/or neurodivergence can offer a specific, unique, culturally and socially responsive, and accessible type of mental health care (known as peer support). We do not believe that peer support happens on a hierarchical level -- between someone who is ‘recovered’ and someone who is ‘still sick.’
Shared power: We value shared power and reciprocal relationships between people with lived experience & those working to support us, provide us with healing options, and help us thrive.
Anti-oppression framework: We understand that structural ableism both informs and reinforces other structures of oppression (i.e. racism, sexism, classism) in order to support the idea that some bodies are better than others. At Project LETS, we disagree and seek to dismantle all forms of oppression. We recognize that our freedom, rights, and liberation must be collective and therefore include the most vulnerable among us.
Example: Historically speaking, racial and gendered hierarchy is founded upon ideas about what kind of labor certain kinds of bodies are “best suited” to accomplish. In reality, everyone’s body is different, and these categories have no basis in biology.
(Citation) “Disability and the Justification of Inequality in American History” by Douglas C. Baynton
Democratizing medical knowledge: We believe that everyone should have access to often-exclusive forms of “professionalized” medical knowledge, and we recognize that the medical-industrial complex does not have a monopoly on healing. We seek to resist the colonial and commodifying practice of divorcing indigenous, religious, spiritual, and holistic healing practices from their roots. We recognize the power of these practices with respect to their historical context and reject cultural appropriation of healing traditions.
Example: therapists prescribing “mindfulness” without acknowledging its accompanying cultural context.
Community oriented: We believe in thinking globally, and acting locally. We operate on a national level and believe in building strong, grassroots community-based systems of care. We also form international partnerships to undermine imperialistic practices, and support economic justice for previously colonized nations.
Task-shifting models of care: We believe that the work of listening, healing, support, etc. is not limited to those with a particular license or degree. We recognize the ways that dominant ideas about what type of person is seen as a potential “healer” or “professional” simply replicates oppressive hierarchy. We believe everyone is capable of healing themselves and others and work to equip all kinds of people with healing skills.
Vision & Primary Goals
Disrupt multiple systems (educational system, prison-industrial complex, medical-industrial complex) that perpetuate ableism, discriminate against and oppress mentally ill/neurodivergent folks, and directly impact equity, opportunity, and quality of life
Support mentally ill and neurodivergent student throughout their educational processes, including graduation from higher education
Provide culturally and socially responsive peer support services that are not directly tied to or connected to any supervising institution
Create peer-led spaces for communal support, collective healing, and transformational love
Connect individuals and communities to culturally and socially responsive mental health care services
Build community mental health centers that focus on providing peer support services & competent care to multiply-marginalized populations
Build community-based alternatives to police as first responders for mental health concerns
Support community-based, grassroots organizations working to build peer support services on an international level
Amplify the experiences, stories, and histories of folks with lived experience through blog writing, podcasts, and oral histories
Influence policy within institutions at a local, state, and federal level
Disrupting Systems (Specific Strategies)
No police officers in schools (replace with social workers & peer support)
Restorative and transformative justice practices in schools
End solitary confinement
- We aim to start with abolishing solitary for juveniles in RI
- Our eventual goal is to eradicate the practice altogether
Build community-based resources that pre-empt arrest and incarceration
Project LETS youth-led high school chapters
Project LETS university chapters & Peer Mental Health Advocate (PMHA) programs
Enforce and expand the parameters of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
- Increase education around and enforcement of mental health protections within the ADA
Abolish discriminatory and exclusionary practices in educational systems
- Forced medical leave
Increase graduation rates of disabled, neurodivergent, and mentally ill students in higher education
Train medical students, providers, psychiatrists in disability justice, models of disability, and structural ableism
Conduct professional development webinars for psychology students
Increase numbers of and support for medical providers with disabilities
Disrupt cycles of repeated hospitalization, incarceration, and medication without long-term support.
In October 2009, Brittany Marie Petrocca of East Meadow, New York, lost her life to suicide. After being a part of the after-math, it was clear that the community was devastated and hurting. However, the stigma surrounding suicide and mental illness is so negative, that nobody wanted to talk about it. A school of fourteen year-olds did not know how to handle this kind of situation, and events like these take place every single day. This was when our founder recognized the lack of awareness and education within the community, and began her work for Project LETS. To erase the stigma and to commemorate the lives we have lost in these honorable ways, we must talk and spread awareness. We must never, ever, stay silent.
We believe everybody has a fundamental right to access help and treatment. We understand we're not professionals, but we are the people this affects. The ones living with mental illness - every day of our lives. Each of us have valuable insight to pass along, and know who to point you towards if the situation requires more help than we can provide. This is why we believe so fundamentally in the power of Peer Support.
Brittany Marie, we don't forget you. We are here, honoring your memory.