"Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next."
- - Ezra Taft Benson
November 22, 2013
Do You Have a WRAP?
by Sarah Hancock

I’m not talking about the burrito-like sandwich. I’m talking about a Wellness Recovery Action Plan created by Mary Ellen Copeland. She is one of my heroes.

Diagnosed with a severe mental illness, she worked and studied until she came up with something allowing her to feel better and enjoy life. When I learned a peer (someone who has a mental illness) created this program, immediately I knew that I had to try it. I had confidence that if it worked for her, it would work for me.

It wasn’t something theoretical that professionals felt might work; it was something that she’d actually used to keep herself “happy and healthy for many, many years.” After learning how to create and use a WRAP, my ability to successfully live with a severe mental illness was launched into hyper-warp drive.

To date, in utilizing my WRAP, I’ve enjoyed remission from schizoaffective disorder for four and a half years. WRAPs work.

A Wellness Recovery Action Plan is exactly what it sounds like. It is a plan that you make and follow in order to maintain or reestablish wellness. Although it’s a simple concept, it took years to develop and refine.

The plan is structured to help those with mental illness obtain and maintain wellness. In the event that wellness begins to slip, a person who has created a WRAP knows what he needs to do to get back in the wellness saddle.

If the illness has progressed beyond one’s own ability to regain control, personal control is maintained because the WRAP acts as an advanced directive. In essence, the WRAP allows the person to still have control over his treatment, even when he's lost control of his ability to communicate his needs and desires.

As a person progresses in his own recovery journey there is an ongoing adaptation of his WRAP to meet evolving needs. The idea behind an evolving WRAP is that as a person begins to recognize what he is like when he is doing well and recognizes his own responses to both external and internal stimuli, he begins to better create the unique coping skills required to stay healthy.

Before I created my WRAP, my illness controlled my life. Symptoms happened. I thought they were out of my control. Outside of taking my medication, I thought that there was nothing I could do to stop it. I didn’t hold my life’s reins; my illness did.

For 11 years, my illness progressively became worse. It was horrific. Once I experienced full-blown psychosis or delusions, it was difficult to rein my psychosis without additional medication or hospitalization.

I cannot count how many times I was hospitalized or institutionalized during those 11 years. I basically went in about every 6-8 weeks. With each hospitalization, I felt a little less human and a little more like a walking diagnosis.

However, after developing my WRAP, I went from 8-12 hospitalizations a year to none. Zero. Zip. Nada. My WRAP allowed me to take control of my illness before I lost control of my symptoms, allowing me to recognize symptoms and stave them off before unraveling into full blown symptoms — essentially creating a 180-degree change in my life.

Now, instead of allowing my illness to control me, I have the tools to control it. What a difference!

In creating a WRAP, it’s important that the person making the WRAP has access to a trained peer support specialist. The first time I made a WRAP, I did it with my counselor. Although she was well-intentioned, she didn’t really understand how a WRAP worked. She gave me steps to follow, and skills to use, but they weren’t applicable to me. Consequently, my WRAP was not effective.

The second time I created a WRAP, I did so with a trained peer support specialist. In fact, worldwide there are people trained specifically as “WRAP Facilitators.” One of the unique characteristics of WRAP Facilitators is that they all have “lived experience” with mental illness and have learned to utilize that experience in helping others create an effective Wellness Recovery Action Plan.

In the next eight articles, I will discuss how to create an effective WRAP plan. I would like to emphasize that these articles are not to be used instead of going to a WRAP group. They are intended to help people with a mental illness or those who love and serve them augment the free WRAP classes available at clubhouses and agencies in their own area.

Next time we will discuss the “Wellness Toolbox” and how to develop and utilize it, progressing one’s recovery.

For more information about a Wellness Recovery Action Plan, go to www.mentalhealthrecovery.com.


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About Sarah Hancock

Sarah Price Hancock, a graduate of San Diego State University's rehabilitation counseling Masters of Science program with a certificate psychiatric rehabilitation.

Having embarked on her own journey with a mental health diagnosis, she is passionate about psychiatric recovery. She enjoys working as a lector for universities, training upcoming mental health professionals. Sarah also enjoys sharing insights with peers working to strengthen their "recovery toolbox." With proper support, Sarah knows psychiatric recovery isnít just possible ó itís probable.

Born and raised in San Diego, California, Sarah served a Spanish-speaking and ASL mission for the LDS Church in the Texas Dallas Mission. She was graduated from Ricks College and BYU. Sarah currently resides in San Diego and inherited four amazing children when she married the man of her dreams in 2011. She loves writing, public speaking, ceramics, jewelry-making and kite-flying ó not necessarily in that order.

NAMI San Diego's Fall Keynote Address: Living in Recovery with Schizoaffective Disorder

Having recently moved into a new ward, she currently serves as a visiting teacher.

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