By Mary Ellen Copeland, one of WRAP’s originators
Note: Neal Shifman, President, CEO, and Founder of Advocates for Human Potential, Inc. (AHP) passed away on August 28. Mary Ellen Copeland entrusted Neal and his company to carry on the WRAP legacy after she retired. Neal believed deeply in the power and importance of WRAP.
First, I met key people who work at Advocates for Human Potential and began to have hope they might be the right ones to take on this monumental task. Then when I met Neal and his son, Noah, I knew I was in the right place and that I could trust Neal and everyone at Advocates for Human Potential to carry my work into the future.
Now, after working closely with AHP for seven years, it is clear I have made the right choice. Losing Neal is a huge loss, but he leaves behind Noah, who has a strong passion for WRAP and commitment to the values and ethics of WRAP, and a strong legacy of dedicated and wise people who share Neal’s ethics and values, people who will carry on for him, creating positive change in health systems in a world with such great need.
As my personal memorial to Neal, I am committed to “going the extra mile” for others and for the planet. If there is someone who needs a hand, I will offer mine. If there is a task to be done in the service of others, I will do the best I can to do it. I will be looking for the small things as well as the big ones, giving more of myself in the service of others and the protection of the world. I will fill my life with hugs, kind words, contributions, tasks in the service of others, advocacy—whatever needs to be done to make the lives of others better, at all times being aware of the values and ethics that guided Neal’s life.
After I learned of Neal’s passing, I took a walk in the woods behind my home. As I was returning, my eyes downcast, heavy with grief, a small porcupine crossed my path. I stopped to look at it, and at the edge of the path, it stopped and turned to look at me. It felt like we were communicating with each other. They were precious moments. After a bit, it turned and ambled off into the brush and I continued my walk, but for a few moments, I felt such a strong connection to this precious being.
May what I learned from that brief encounter, and what I learned in my connections with Neal, guide me in my life. I hope you will join me in this pursuit. Together we will make the world a better place.
Mary Ellen Copeland, PhD, developed Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) with a group of people with lived experience who were attending a mental health recovery workshop in 1997. She is the original author of the WRAP Red Book, as well as dozens of other WRAP books and materials. She has dedicated the last 30 years of her life to learning from people who have mental health issues; discovering the simple, safe, non-invasive ways they get well, stay well, and move forward in their lives; and then sharing what she has learned with others through keynote addresses, trainings, and the development of books, curriculums, and other resources. Now that she is retired, and that, as she intended, others are continuing to share what she has learned, she continues to learn from those who have mental health issues and those who support them. She is a frequent contributor to this site.