Gift of Voice: An Evidence-Based Organization that Changes Lives Has a Wonderful Opportunity for You  

Going to see a counselor for a mental health difficulty can be very challenging in Illinois. Often, due to the rural makeup of the downstate area, people too often find themselves needing to visit a therapist but then find there is something lacking in the support they receive.

Peer-run organizations, like Gift of Voice, fill in the gaps left by what therapists alone can offer and makes healing not only easier to accomplish but also less lonely of a process.

The Evidence-Based Peer-Led Revolution


In the past two decades, a new approach has been utilized to approach filling a need for services to those affected by mental health issues. This new method is known as peer support and it is changing the look and outcome of mental health treatment around the country.

According to a free downloadable pamphlet by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA), peer support means just as it sounds. Peer support is people who have lived experience with mental illness helping others who also have a mental health challenge. It is a highly successful and evidence-based practice that offers a powerful message of hope by using their own stories of healing.

The term evidence-based in terms of mental health is, as it sounds, backed by research evidence. These services might include classes and information that work to enter and go through the healing process plus reduce the likelihood of relapse with the need for hospitalization.

Organizations, like Gift of Voice, offer peer support led by people who are far enough along in their own healing process to reach out to others and help them heal.

In fact, another publication by SAMSHA, The Evidence, Consumer Operated Services, from 2011, offers the following quote:

“Consumers are best able to address their own recovery needs and to advocate for change within the mental health system when they have accurate and comprehensive knowledge about mental illness and psychiatric services, as well as strategies to support wellness” (Campbell, 2005, p. 30.)

AJ French and the Gift of Voice

A.J. French

The founder and President of Gift of Voice, AJ French, has lived experience with her own mental health journey. In her article, The Road to Wellness, published in 2017 by Advantage, AJ recounts how she found herself thinking of dying by suicide.

During this crisis, AJ realized that she wasn’t looking for death but only for the emotional pain to end. She also understood deep down that what she and others who find themselves in the grip of a mental health challenge need is to be able to speak to others who would deeply understand their plight.

From the lowest point in the life of AJ came the wonderful organization Gift of Voice, a 501c3 not-for-profit organization that offers, among other services, classes for those living with a mental health challenge and the providers/advocates who help them heal.

Gift of Voice offers Wellness Recovery Action Plan (W.R.A.P.) classes, a structured system to help people understand their symptoms and act on them early. By recording before a crisis strikes how they look when they are well and what they look like when things are breaking down.

W.R.A.P. was created by Mary Ellen Copeland, an author, mental health advocate and founder of The Copeland Center.  She based her new system on experiences she had studying how different people handle life and how they meet their challenges.

W.R.A.P. is an evidence-based practice based on research. One of several papers touting the effectiveness of W.R.A.P. can be found in the publication Psychiatric Rehab Journal from 2010.

The conclusion is that not only is Gift of Voice an evidence-based organization due to its peer support nature, but also because they offer programs such as W.R.A.P.

Gift of Voice Has a Wonderful Opportunity for You


Gift of Voice operates on monetary gifts of every size from people like you.

As a definition of Gift of Voice and what they stand for, I’ll share the description coming from their website.

“Gift of Voice is a mental health and trauma recovery training center, operated primarily by people in recovery who share a global vision of health and wellness. We provide training for individuals, communities & churches.”

For Gift of Voice to continue offering their valuable evidence-based systems of information, they require funds.

Based in Edwardsville, Illinois Gift of Voice has joined up with a very generous advocate, Jack Schmitt Chevrolet located in Wood River, Illinois. Jack Schmitt Chevrolet has generously offered a brand-new, white, 2019 four-door Chevy Cruise to raffle in celebration of to celebrate the anniversary of Gift of Voice receiving their 501c3 designation from the Internal Revenue Service.

However, if you want to get in on this generous offer, you must purchase your tickets quickly because it only lasts until noon on February 14 before the drawing at 3 p.m.

While the drawing will be held at Jack Schmitt Chevrolet car dealership located at 1870 East Edwardsville Road in Wood River, tickets must be purchased on Eventbrite under the Car raffle tickets can be purchased online through the Gift of Voice 501c3 Celebration page.

Donations are all tax-exempt. Anyone choosing to make smaller or larger donations can do so at any time, but the raffle tickets must be purchased through the Gift of Voice 501(c)(3) Celebration page on Eventbrite.

Your donations large and small go to Gift of Voice to help them carry out and expand their peer-led services that are changing the lives of the Edwardsville community and beyond.











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