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Mental health has lost its stigma in recent years as top athletes and entertainers have come forward with honesty and candor about struggles with anxiety, depression, panic attacks, addiction and mental illness. other emotional and psychological difficulties.

American gymnast Simone Biles and Japanese tennis player Naomi Osaka, in particular, have been candid about their mental health struggles, and their vulnerability has been an inspiration to millions – 52.9 million alone. in the United States, according to the National Institutes of Health – who have suffered too long in silence, fearing being called weak, lazy, asocial, etc.

Along with his tech company Cope Notes and heavy metal band Prison, Tampa entrepreneur Johnny Crowder, who describes himself as a “survivor of suicide and abuse,” has become a leading advocate and spokesperson for the people around the world who need to know that they are not alone in their lives. mental health journey. Cope Notes, in particular, turned into a major success story, leading Crowder, 30, to become an in-demand speaker, delivering TED Talks with titles like “How to Grow as a Person (and Why It Sucks)” “. and “Why I don’t want to die anymore”.

Crowder started out as a rocker and still thinks of himself as such — “I think of myself as an accidental entrepreneur,” he says — but his work as the ultra-intense, rocky leader of Prison complements Cope Notes, which offers positive and encouraging thoughts. in the form of SMS.

“I was drawn to heavy metal because of the honesty, which I still appreciate today,” he says. The metal bands he was in “were about loss and frustration and self-doubt, and I was like, ‘Yo, this is real; I can absolutely identify with that.

To date, Cope Notes, which has just four full-time employees, has sent more than 1.5 million messages to nearly 25,000 customers in 97 countries. The service costs around $8.99 per month – a fraction of the price of traditional talk therapy – but it is not intended to completely supplant other mental health services.

“It’s an easier and more appropriate first step, especially for people who haven’t received a diagnosis,” Crowder says. “There’s a large group of people who don’t have the money or don’t have the time or other resources, or quite frankly don’t consider themselves to be suffering from depression or anxiety severe enough to use something like therapy.”

With Prison, Crowder sings — or shouts, in some cases — about mental health topics. With songs such as “I Don’t Want to be Afraid Anymore”, “Mental Illness”, “Hurt” and “Losing My Mind”, the group has released a studio album, a live album and an EP, and it is gearing up for their first tour since the pandemic made shows impossible.

“It was devastating,” Crowder says of the stoppage. “I grew up on tour, before I was even old enough to walk into the venues where we played. I didn’t realize how much of a cornerstone it had become to my personality and identity, until it was taken away from me.

The loss of his creative outlet sent Crowder into despair, but he did well on his own by returning to therapy. “I wasn’t going to try to make it on my own,” he says. “I was talking to my guitarist, and he was like, ‘You know what’s weird about being home all the time?’ And I was like, ‘What?’ And he said, ‘No one ever applauds you.’ Yeah, it’s silly to put it that way, but you get used to that sense of community – hundreds of people in a room, all there for one purpose, and a new city every day.

He adds: “Going from that to waking up every day in the same room, spending all day in the same room, in silence, that’s why I started going to therapy again.

Financially, the pandemic has also been nearly disastrous for Crowder and Cope Notes.

“Our activity has almost stopped,” he says. “You would think that when that happened everyone would focus on their mental health. But, in fact, everyone was focused on saving money.

Several of the company’s large enterprise clients have suspended their Cope Notes accounts due to the spending freeze. “Cope Notes got caught up in that initial panic,” Crowder recalled. “We could very well have gone bankrupt.”

But in a counter-intuitive move, Crowder has started offering free subscriptions to friends and family members of current Cope Notes subscribers.

“So many people discovered Cope Notes through this initiative that we started getting more paying subscribers,” he says, “and then our corporate clients came back and brought their friends once they realized the behavioral health was something they should double down on, not back down.

Crowder refuses to disclose Cope Notes’ earnings, but says sales can vary significantly due to the company’s agreements with corporations and governments. “Their budgets are absolutely huge,” he says. “So it’s not unreasonable for us to have a month that generates more revenue than the whole year combined. I will say that our revenues have increased year after year, every year. The graph moves up and to the right.

With Prison back up and running and Cope Notes switched to a fully remote company, Crowder says he can run the company while he’s on tour with the band — a “bliss,” he says. “I just have to activate the ‘group version’ of myself after the doors to the room open. I will work all day in the van or on site if we arrive early. It’s not really exaggerated for me to work on tour.