World Mental Health Day was October 10. It’s a globally recognized day for mental health education, awareness, and advocacy, and a good reminder to take care of ourselves. Together we can reduce the stigma—and start healthy conversations—around mental health challenges.

Every day is a good day to talk about mental health and recovery, so in honor of the day, we share the lived experience of Dawn Heffernan.

How WRAP Changed My Life

By Dawn Heffernan, Certified WRAP Facilitator

When I discovered WRAP and Mary Ellen Copeland, it was after experiencing four episodes of debilitating psychosis. I was hospitalized each time. After being chemically knocked out, I always recovered and was discharged after a few weeks with no meds and no care plan.

My experiences only made sense to me when I found Mary Ellen’s now out-of-print workbook Living with Depression and Manic Depression, which was a precursor to WRAP.

I learned that I was my own best expert; I learned to advocate for my needs, to question my thoughts and pick up on triggers; and I learned to catalogue early warning signs. I made changes in my lifestyle, and I was so impressed by my progress and the debt of gratitude I felt toward her that I traveled to the first International WRAP Around the World Conference in America from the United Kingdom to meet Mary Ellen and thank her. She and WRAP undoubtedly saved my marriage, my career, and my sanity.

I trained as a WRAP Facilitator and eventually started a charity to deliver WRAP as it was meant to be delivered: peer to peer.

I have helped a lot of people develop and work on their own WRAPs, and to this day I use mine to maintain good mental health. I haven’t been hospitalized since 1997, when I discovered WRAP. I have self-managed successfully since then.

I proved the psychiatrists wrong who told me I would have to be on long-term medication and that what I was doing was impossible. I have learned so much. I still get manic episodes, and I use medications occasionally, but only for a few days as a part of my management plan.

I also experienced depression in my 50s, but after charting these episodes I saw a pattern. They only last 5 weeks and are increasingly manageable through using WRAP.

WRAP means taking a proactive approach to your situation and learning from your experiences. It means developing trust in yourself and taking responsibility for your health. You cannot do this in isolation; I would also argue that you cannot have good mental health when isolated.

In short: Hope, Personal Responsibility, Education, Self-Advocacy, and Support (known as the five key concepts of WRAP). These are the basis of WRAP that continue to be cornerstones in my life.