Peer support phone line is staffed with BIPOC and transgender respondents, military veterans and other marginalized groups.
Fireside Project is a companion app and helpline intended for use by those undergoing difficult experiences and/or psychological distress while ingesting cannabis or psychedelic substances. It operates as a nonprofit provider of compassionate, accessible, and culturally responsive peer support for psychedelic users.
“Fireside Project works at the intersection of psychedelic harm reduction, social justice, peer support, and mental health,” explained Hanifa Nayo Washington, the initiative’s co-founder & chief ambassador. She developed the project alongside co-founder Josh White. Before devoting his life to the psychedelic movement, White spent more than a decade as a Deputy City Attorney at the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office, where he focused on suing businesses exploiting vulnerable communities, serving as general counsel to City departments, and co-teaching a nationally renowned clinic at Yale Law School. He also clerked on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and practiced civil litigation at Conrad | Metlitzky | Kane.
As the number of psychedelic users expands, it’s important that users have access to resources designed to maximize the benefits of their experience and minimize any concerns they may have. The project’s Psychedelic Peer Support Line offers free, confidential peer support by phone and text message to people in the midst of psychedelic experiences, people holding space for others who are in the midst of psychedelic experiences, and people integrating past psychedelic experiences. The team itself is diverse and representative of the wide range of individuals who might engage in use to improve their mental health.
“Since the inception of Fireside Project, our vision has been to create an equitable psychedelic field that is representative of all communities and identities and to create a psychedelic field with low to no barriers in accessing quality care during and after psychedelic experiences,” Nayo Washington added.
Among Fireside Project’s volunteer staff are a cohort of BIPOC and trans-identifying responders, providing more inclusive services to callers seeking assistance. These volunteers assist callers experiencing emotional, psychological, or spiritual distress related to past or current experiences with psychedelics or cannabis, depending on their affinity with and/or self-identification as part of one or more of the above groups.
“There are innumerable studies that show representation creates a sense of belonging, feelings of being seen, feelings of validation, and most importantly a feeling of not being alone,” explained Nayo Washington. “Entering as a new, startup non-profit in the field, we had no intention to turn a blind eye to the overwhelming privileged make-up of the psychedelic field from its practitioners to those seeking care. We wanted to create a way to have impact on changing the makeup of the field and to provide high-quality, culturally attuned care to those seeking support during and after psychedelic experiences.”
Since Fireside’s launch, roughly 40% of its volunteers now identify with at least one of the target marginalized communities including BIPOC, transgender, and/or military veterans, and the founders hope to increase this percentage over time.
“We believe it positively impacts our caller’s integration process…to have the choice to speak with someone who not only has had their own psychedelic experiences but also shares a significant identity factor,” said Nayo Washington. “For callers who come from de-centered, under-resourced, and oppressed communities ,this type of support can be life-changing.”
As more states work to pass laws legalizing the use of psychedelics in therapeutic settings, resources like the Fireside Project will become vital for psychedelic users. For more information, visit firesideproject.org.