CARLSBAD — Sometimes, small yellow Post-It notes can lead to a bigger message when least expected.
Take Carlsbad resident, Jeff Holland, 48, who earlier this month launched a campaign called “Coping Cards,” to introduce his new supplemental mental health therapy on Kickstarter.com.
He also filmed a short video to explain the project in more detail. He decided the timing was perfect in part because September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month and Suicide Prevention Week running through Sept.15.
Holland’s funding goal to get the project into production is $15,000, which he said would cover the creative, print set-up and initial production run of boxes and cards. If the goal isn’t met within 30 days, no money is collected in accord with Kickstarter’s rules and funding conditions.
Coping Cards are small index cards that contain positive affirmations, quotes and phrases for use when experiencing anxiety, stress, anger or depression. The cards are portable and thoughtful reminders to help combat negative self-talk.
“Some may sound familiar, but, although it seems simple, they’ve been proven to work as a part of a well-thought-out treatment plan,” he said. “Whenever negative self-talk gets you down, you can pull out a Coping Card to help you calm down and stay in control until you feel better.”
Cards with meaning
The Coping Cards are broken out into three categories; Activity, Affirmation and Motivation and have been compiled and vetted by professionally licensed therapists, he said.
“Depending on your mood or environment, anyone can easily grab a card to perform a quick activity or get in a better head space by reading a motivational quote or affirmation,” he said.
Other ways the cards work: Verbalizing your coping statements can help you maintain and relax. They offer reassurance that you can make it through any difficult period.
“With these cards on your person at all times, you can pull it out and read the statements to yourself whenever you need to — no memory required,” he said.
Holland created Coping Cards with the help of his wife, Jen, who is a licensed marriage and family therapist, after witnessing a family member struggling with mental health issues. He noticed that she had handwritten notes posted throughout her house with various motivational passages, suggested activities and positive affirmations.
“My aunt committed suicide approximately two years ago and then my first cousin shortly after that,” he said. “When my family went to my aunt’s house to clean out her belongings we noticed a bunch of little yellow sticky notes and index cards taped to her cupboards, mirrors and doors all over her house. I hadn’t visited her in a few years as she lived in Kansas City, but the gravity of seeing all those self-help and motivational handwritten notes everywhere really made a huge impact on me.”
That was the genesis of the idea; after that he went to work on the types of card categories. From there he enlisted the help of his wife and her co-workers who are therapists and counselors in the psychiatry department at a major health care provider here in Southern California to create the words, actions and phrases for each individual card.
“ … believe me they do not take this lightly!” he said “It’s very serious and we want to make certain they are all impactful and helpful to the people who will use these as a part of their treatment. We are also talking with representatives at the National Alliance on Mental Illness and other nonprofit mental health and suicide prevention organizations to hopefully be in a place to supply them with Coping Cards. We hope they can provide them to their clients and patients as part of their treatment plans.”
As for the name Holland said: “It just came to me when thinking about how people ‘cope’ with the stress and anxiety of their daily lives and placing the thoughts on physical cards people can actively use.”
Practicing what he preaches
Holland, who is no stranger to thinking positively, said he has been a proponent of motivational sayings since his days playing high school football.
“At the time it was mostly Vince Lombardi quotes, but I’ve drawn from others like Moms Mabley, John F. Kennedy, Erik Erikson, Thomas Paine and Rick Warren for strength and motivation throughout my life,” he said. “I’m generally a pretty positive person and suicide never made sense to me, but my wife tells me that’s a good thing if you can’t understand why someone would do that, because you’re in a healthy mental state”
He said he mostly uses motivational sayings for things such as striving to do a better job at work or trying to get ahead by thinking positively.
“It also helps motivate me to do something like this — starting a crowdfunding campaign to support something I believe in,” he said. “It’s not easy to put yourself out there in your peer or friend group on social media, but I’m just gonna go for it and hopefully it’ll work out.”
Besides his family members committing suicide, he recalled a middle school friend who attempted, but didn’t succeed, and his class president in high school who sadly was successful.
He is also aware of others in the limelight recently who have committed suicide, bringing the issue to the forefront.
“I’m a big music and pop culture fan and hearing about people like Chris Cornell, Scott Weiland and Chester Bennington — and Kate Spade, Robin Williams and Anthony Bourdain who all committed suicide just in the last few years, it seems like an epidemic and nobody is immune,” he said. “That’s also part of the reason I’m doing this.”
Holland hopes that if he can raise enough money on Kickstarter initially, he will be able to create a website and offer them through the site as well as outlets like Amazon.com.
“It’s too important not to do but this literally would ‘kickstart’ the dream and help make it a reality,” he said.
Other valuable uses
Coping Cards are also versatile as they can be used for just about anything and by anyone for when life throws you a curve ball.
“You don’t have to be in crisis to avail yourself of the messages,” he said. “Again, I would use them at work for motivation and I assume others would as well. They have numerous applications from people looking for a brief happy thought, pause or reminding themselves to get up and stretch or take a moment for some exercise or take a deep breath.
“Most people have dealt with anxiety and can benefit from them but It’s all about being positive and healthy — mentally and physically.”
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in five — nearly 44 million — U.S. adults will experience a mental health condition each year, and nearly 22 percent of children between the ages of 13 and 18 will experience a serious mental disorder in their lifetime. Even more critical, 90 percent of people who die by suicide experience a mental health condition. The best treatments for serious mental illnesses today are highly effective; between 70 and 90 percent of individuals have a significant reduction of symptoms and an improved quality of life with the right treatments and support system. Coping Cards are meant as a supplement to those treatments, Holland said.