'Cope Notes’ designed to turn your smartphone into a support group

Coping with Mental Illness

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - One in five adults experiences a mental illness each year, according to the latest statistics from the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

For most of us, that’s a close family member in our lifetime.

“Oh, I like this one,” Johnny Crowder said as he reads a text message he recently got on his phone. “What do bananas, oranges and brown rice have in common? Yes, they’re tasty, but that’s not all. These anti-anxiety foods help your brain manage stress.”

One simple text, a random time each day is helping Crowder use technology to send healing.

“I got this one Wednesday, March 13 at 10:24 p.m.,” Crowder said. “This one says 81% of people feel motivated to work harder when they feel appreciated. Your mission is to say thank you to five different people before bedtime.”

It’s called Cope Notes, a text messaging service that sends anyone who signs up a little food for thought.

“Next time you order tacos, ask for extra salsa on the side - tomatoes are jam packed with depression fighting acids,” one text reads.

Another one says, “When we reduce life to a highlight reel like graduations, weddings etc, we’re leaving out the best parts. 99% of everything happens between the milestones."

Crowder said the messages come at different times so you aren’t expecting them, and each subscriber gets a different message.

“The way that they interpret these text messages, that’s where the true work gets done," Crowder said.

Cope Notes are designed to give a boost of positivity at a random time each day.
Cope Notes are designed to give a boost of positivity at a random time each day. (Source: NBC12)

His company has messaged nearly 8,000 people in 72 countries over the last year. That’s nearly 125,000 texts so far.

The texts are often filled with hope: “Don’t think that you can’t learn to master something new - you’ve literally been doing that forever."

From a very young age, Johnny knew he was different.

“What I was experiencing was maybe not exactly what other kids were," Crowder said. “So I would hear voices and see things, and I thought maybe I just have an overactive imagination.”

Through a long and painful journey where he initially avoided therapy, Crowder was eventually diagnosed with depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, ADHD, bipolar, schizophrenia and Tourette’s Syndrome.

“People think there’s this point at which you cross this threshold and everything is perfect, but in reality it’s this work in progress and you slowly improve,” Crowder said.

He learned over the years to change his eating habits and sleep patterns. He’s gone through therapy. He lets it all out as a singer in a heavy metal band, which also tackles mental health issues in its lyrics.

But he’s also gained another perspective.

“The only reason I feel inspired to do these kinds of things for other people, the only reason I think about other people all the time, is I think because of faith,” Crowder said.

His Copes Notes are sourced and written by people who have been through real life hardship, trauma or loss and are vetted by mental health professionals.

“I wanted Cope Notes to be for a soccer mom who is stressed or a college students who’s in therapy," Crowder said. “The whole life is probably going to beat you up at some point. I don’t think anyone is exempt from hardship.”

Crowder said he is stunned at the impact so far, and if he hasn’t yet reached you through text he wants to make sure his message is getting through.

“You could not have made it this far. If you are hearing this or watching this or you’re alive and breathing right now, you are clearly borderline indestructible," Crowder said.

CopeNotes is free to start. Afterwards, a subscription kicks in, but Crowder specifically priced the service to be less than one counseling session.

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