This summer (2012), a contingent of high school students from Bellerose Composite in St. Albert and Louis St. Laurent School in Edmonton participated in a pilot project that is aimed at empowering youth to be proactive in understanding issues surrounding mental health and wellness. In conjunction with Alberta Health Services and The Copeland Center for Wellness and Recovery, the students took part in a series of professional development activities called WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan).

How do we feel about use of the term "mental illness"? The phrase is prevalent in mental health and may continue to be broadly used for quite some time. To the extent that its use destigmatizes (because it can mean "I am not crazy" and "I am not bad"), it is a good thing. To the extent that it validates the uniqueness of someone's experience and helps providers be empathetic, it is a good thing. To the extent that it helps find statistically valid and empirically confirmed biochemical or genetic aspects of mental health problems to create a wider range of effective treatment tools, it is a good thing.

But the New Freedom Commission and Uniformed Services Package say mental health care must be transformed to reflect the principles of the Recovery Model.

This...information is from studies designed to find out how people who experience psychiatric symptoms deal with these symptoms and help themselves feel better. The researcher and the study participants are people who have been told that they have a psychiatric or mental illness. Not all of these ideas work for everyone -- use the ones that feel right to you.

There is hope.  People get well, stay well for long periods of time, and do the things they want to do with their lives. Self-determination, personal responsibility, empowerment, and self-advocacy are expected outcomes of  WRAP. Insist that you be treated as an equal with dignity, compassion, mutual respect, and unconditional high regard, a unique, special individual, including acceptance of diversity with relation to culture, ethnicity, language, religion, race, gender, age, disability, sexual preference, and “readiness” issues, and treat others the same way. 

The first step in developing your own Wellness Recovery Action Plan™, is to develop a Wellness Toolbox. This is a listing of things you have done in the past, or could do, to help yourself stay well; and, things you could do to help yourself feel better when you are not doing well. You will use these "tools" to develop your own WRAP.

People who experience psychiatric symptoms no longer feel that they are sentenced to a life of chronic illness that interferes with their ability to work toward and reach their goals. Instead, by using self-help skills and strategies that complement other treatment scenarios, they are achieving levels of wellness, stability and recovery they always hoped were possible.

Matthew Federici and Cheryl Sharp wrote “The Healing WRAP” for the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare’s magazine on Trauma-Informed Behavioral Health Care.

Lila Coddington, Assistant Director of Central Access and Student Development at Central Connecticut State University, says more and more students are arriving on campus with mental health challenges. In 2010 CCSU launched the first WRAP program for students, which has proven to be an excellent way to support students on their path toward recovery.

When Mary Ellen Copeland developed the Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP®), a tool that helps people work toward mental health recovery, she could not have predicted that, three decades later, it would become a nationally recognized best practice..."WRAP has been adopted by countless individuals, many of whom have seen their lives tranformed in the process."