This article is the second part of a two-part series about the amazing work Hacienda of Hope is doing in California. Read Part 1 here.
In Part 1 of this two-part series, we explored the origins of WRAP at Hacienda of Hope in Los Angeles County, California. In Part 2, we look at some of the individuals and experiences that have shown WRAP’s impact in our organization.
Michol Loeffler, a peer specialist staff member who facilitates our WRAP group at Hacienda of Hope, shared her personal experience with mental health challenges, how she found WRAP, and how she now helps others take charge of their recovery: “I became a WRAP Facilitator in 2008 and have been facilitating WRAP ever since. I share my journey with guests as an example of what recovery can look like. The tools and concepts of WRAP are helpful to my interaction with guests and visitors. WRAP has shown me that others have the freedom to create their own wellness, just as I have. Because of that, I’m able to guide another person through their journey of wellness, not mine. I believe that this is what WRAP is all about.”
Another of Project Return’s leaders, Associate Director Angelica Garcia, is a Copeland Center–certified WRAP Facilitator. She explained, “As a person with a lived experience and working professional in the mental health field, I have found that utilizing WRAP for the last nine years has been very effective in maintaining my own wellness. Given the functions of a fast-paced [daily agenda], l have found that having a plan in place reassures me that, even if I start noticing signs that are uncomfortable, I can actually take action before they progress. I have established a support system that understands my needs when things might not be going so well. Being a WRAP Facilitator helps me educate others on a system management tool that has been very effective for many of us.”
As one example of those we serve, Annette Scott was a former social worker who identified as a peer and came to Hacienda of Hope as a guest. She was able to work on her recovery through the power of peer support and tools such as WRAP. “Being a former social worker has brought me full circle with my profession. Now, I am in need of services…I have found respite. The Hacienda of Hope is a place where you can rest, heal, and redirect or regain insights for a healthier lifestyle. With my stay at the Hacienda of Hope, I have gained epiphanies and empowering reflective moments…I can empower others with life skills I have regained at the Hacienda of Hope.”
Grace Yim, a student at California State University, Dominguez Hills, and an intern at CVC, experienced building her own WRAP. In talking about the experience, she said, “As an occupational therapy student who wants to specialize in mental health, I am always eager to learn about evidence-based practices that help people with mental health conditions recover and lead meaningful lives. What is most inspiring about WRAP is that it gives the individual control over his/her illness experience and recovery process. This resource speaks to a vision of health care that empowers clients and facilitates the process of shaping their future possibilities.”
Author’s Note from Joana Arcangel
I am a peer with lived experience, meaning I identify with mental health recovery. At Hacienda of Hope and through our organization, Project Return Peer Support Network, we utilize lived experience and focus on strength-building through a person-centered approach for connecting with and helping others in their journey.
I cannot fully express my gratitude for the many leaders and other peers who’ve paved the way for mental health education and empowerment. This includes organizations that instill so much hope in others, such as PRPSN, where I have found a sense of belonging, found my calling as a peer professional, and met generous individuals such as Mary Ellen Copeland, who has given many people the support, confidence, and tools to take charge of their own recovery through creating a Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP).
I am open about my mental illness but not because I don’t care about what people think. In fact, I care a lot. I care to open the conversation; I care to open hearts, open minds, and open doors. I faced trauma as a child, developed what has been a very debilitating phobia, and my self-destruction was a security blanket that I held close for so long though it only suffocated me. Throughout my life, I had hope, but so many times it was just a flickering light in the cold darkness. That hope, no matter how small it can become or how much it waivers, has been the heart of my resilience.
Being a mental health advocate isn’t just a job to me. It’s a part of who I am. I look at the Department of Mental Health symbol—hope, recovery, and wellness—as a wheel. I’m grateful I’ve had people to ask for directions when I felt lost, people who were my designated drivers, people who kept me company during long, exhausting roads. However, the direction I’m headed has always been up to me. I’m the ultimate driver of my recovery, and, although it may not always be full of beautiful sceneries and sunshine, I know it will always be mine to take.
Joana Arcangel is Program Coordinator at Project Return Peer Support Network/Hacienda of Hope.