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Local mental health program extends its reach


One of Frank Markham’s first assignments in his Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) class was to build a support group.

Markham said he had just finished a stint in Snowden at Fredericksburg, a mental health center, and, “I didn’t know how to connect with people.”

The exercise forced Markham—who said he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder years earlier and was anxious about interacting with people—to confront his anxieties. He joined a backpacking club and began to learn how to make new friends and how to reach out to old ones.

“The biggest thing I learned was how to interact with people,” he said.

WRAP classes like the one Markham took have been offered in the Fredericksburg area for years, but a change in the way they’re structured may help more people participate.

WRAP classes are now being offered on a rolling basis for the first time locally. Traditionally, the program has run for eight consecutive weeks and been offered only to the public just a few times a year.

Now, people can attend meetings as they’re able throughout the year. Gatherings the second and fourth Mondays of each month focus on a stand-alone topic. At intervening meetings on the first and third Mondays of each month, people can explore WRAP concepts in greater depth.

The classes, sponsored by Mental Health America of Fredericksburg, are based on a nationally recognized program that helps people with mood and behavioral issues develop the tools needed to better manage their mental health. WRAP classes are led by trained peer facilitators, and the classes are free.

Local facilitator Karen Kallay said the new schedule is designed “to make it available through a more accessible timing format. Each class can stand alone.”

Kallay said each meeting will teach skills that the traditional WRAP course offers. People can attend a single class or as many as they’re able. People who have already finished an eight-week WRAP course can also attend to reinforce their skills.

Kallay said one of the principle lessons WRAP classes share is the value of being able to identify how a person feels on a good day versus a bad day—and how to reinforce those good day feelings.

“It teaches them tools to help them feel better,” Kallay said of WRAP. “It’s not glamorous. It’s not magic. A lot has to do with identifying negative thoughts and changing them to positive thoughts.”

The program, she said, is unusual because it focuses on self-help. Kallay said she has heard enthusiastic feedback from those who have participated.

“I’ve seen people just plain feel better,” she said.

Markham is one of many who feel better.

“Identifying triggers is ongoing,” he said. “But I’ve only taken away good things.”


Wellness Recovery Action Plan sessions are offered at no charge at the Tomkins–Martin Building adjacent to Mary Washington Hospital, usually in Room B on the ground floor.

Upcoming topics:

  • Nov. 12 Finding and Keeping Good Friends and Supporters
  • Nov. 26 Realistic Personal Responsibility As We Face the Holidays
  • Dec. 10 Ways to Build Genuine Self-Esteem

More information on WRAP:


Lindley Estes: 540/735-1976