A Path to Reducing Violence in the United States

A Follow Up to Joy Shattered

HOPE. I have hope!

In September I wrote a blog post called Joy Shattered following the tragic shooting on the UNC campus. In that blog I wrote, “The normalcy of violence in our country is unacceptable. It must change, but how?”

I asked folks to email me their ideas of what I can do. Many of you reached out with suggestions, book recommendations, and real-life stories. Thank you.

One friend in particular connected me with a woman named Barbara Hayward who founded COPEKIT.

COPEKIT: Delivering trauma-informed, clinical strategies to everyday life and crisis settings.

The COPEKIT® mission is to equip children and adults with healthy coping skills through innovative product design and delivery.

Essentially, Barbara and her team have developed cards and other tools that simply help people of all ages identify the responses of their body, mind, and feelings during times of stress or trauma. By identifying the response, a person is able to calm themselves and learn ways to manage their reaction in a healthy way, reducing the risk of maladaptive coping such as violence, self-harm, or self-medicating.

The cards help to normalize the physical and emotional responses to stress and trauma—which are just that: normal. Body responses like sweating hands, rapid heartbeat, or feeling hot happen. COPEKIT helps you identify the response and offers healthy ways to deal with it when it happens.

It sounds simple and that is the beauty. It is.

In a world that is more connected than ever and simultaneously more isolated than ever, people are struggling to deal with the stress and trauma that comes at us through loneliness, comparison, physical or mental abuse, exposure to violence in person or digitally, natural disaster—the list goes on and on. COPEKIT offers simple tools that can help us all no matter our age.

By teaching people how to identify their own signs of stress and then how to calm themselves, we have a chance to reduce violent responses. We have a chance to reduce self-harm, self-medication and bullying. We have a chance to help those who feel that their sadness, fear, or shame in the aftermath of trauma is unusual—like there is something wrong with them.

How COPEKITS are helping others effectively deal with stress:

I love these quotes from the COPEKIT website:

  • “I felt mad. I used it. I felt better.”  Elias, age 4, after using the Trace 8 breathing card
  • Natural disaster survivor Drew, age 5, “I’m angry. I’m trying to calm down so I can make the right choice,” while using 5 Finger Breathing
  • “The cards are awesome. They give me the tools to deal with stress…to let it out without taking it out. I wish they had been around when I was in high school.” Branden, age 19
  • “I feel so alone with my pain. I’m ashamed that I feel ashamed. With these cards, I realize I’m not as alone as I thought I was. It’s not just me. There are other people feeling these things. They give me hope.” Amanda, age 48

Barbara gave me a real, tangible way that I can work to reduce violence in our country. I can connect my network of nonprofit leaders, faith community leaders, therapists, behavioral health advocates, and philanthropists to this tool. I can purchase these tools for individuals or organizations I care about. I can share COPEKIT with my family and my friends. I can start using them myself.

I have hope. Through a remarkably simple tool we can change the trajectory of our country.

Join me.

If you have a relationship with a school, nonprofit organization, university, faith community or civic group, I hope you will consider making a year-end gift to that organization to encourage them to purchase COPEKITs for their students, clients, or members. It is a gift with a definite ripple effect.

Speaking of ripple effects, Armstrong McGuire is also here to walk alongside our nonprofit partners in their times of need. We would love to connect with you when the timing is right.

Shannon Williams is Armstrong McGuire’s Managing Director and leads the Armstrong McGuire team of advisors in helping boards find strategic direction, transforming vision into a clear, articulate case, maximizing fundraising potential, and matching talented leaders to exceptional organizations. Learn more about Shannon and catch her other musings in her bio.

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