We had the good fortune of connecting with Jonny McCoy and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Jonny, putting aside the decision to work for yourself, what other decisions were critical to your success?
To fight for my life. The worst part about mental illness is that the person who is essentially paralyzed by their mind is also the only person who can save them. Once I survived, I emerged with a vantage point that few people will ever get to experience. I know, intimately, our user base because I’ve been down there with them. When I climbed out, I promised those still in the darkness that I would be back. I returned and WhiteFlag is the ladder that we are throwing back down the hole.

Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
I was raised in an abusive household. My father, who found his own grandfather, my great grandfather, lying in a pool of blood dead by suicide, suffered tremendous trauma as a boy. My dad was 12 when it happened. He was alone, trapped in the house with the body until the next morning when the bus arrived for school. He was forbidden from speaking about it and up until my suicide attempt, I was unaware that it ran in the family. Because of my father’s darkness, he beat us. Mom especially. He beat her so bad that he was arrested for domestic violence in front of me. The cause of the fight? My mother allowed me to miss baseball practice to see a friend. I was 10. After dad got out of jail, the violence ceased. However, the damage had been done. By the time I was 13, my mother was a full blown alcoholic and addict. Her abusive words and ways were worse than any physical scar I had from dad. I lost all sense of trust and confidence during this period. High school. A time when I needed it the most. Mom was sent away to treatment when I was 17. By the time she returned, I was packing my stuff for college.
4 years later, somehow someway I got into law school. That story is for a different article but on the day I walked into the building, I was officially the highest educated person in the history of my family. I was doing it. Changing from generational trauma into someone who “made it out.” I graduated from law school and got a job at a major law firm practicing big business and insurance defense. I was on my way. That is, until it happened.
On October 17th, 2009 I went down to the restaurant/entertainment district of Columbia, SC to pick up a friend who was in town for a wedding. I wasn’t with the group that night due to a Crohns Disease flair and when I arrived to pick my friend up, something was off. He was standing outside of the bar on his phone. He told me that he needed his credit card from inside so I went in. I came out to find him on the ground with 3 police officers on top of him. This guy was a prosecutor at the time. It didn’t feel right so I approached and asked which jail they were taking him to so I could appear at his bond hearing. They didn’t like that. I was assaulted and taken to jail along with my friend. They simply didn’t believe that I was an attorney. Upon arriving at the jail, they again asked us our profession and place of employment. Unsatisfied with our answers, we were given orange jumpsuits and shifted to general population. There, amongst 83 prisoners, some in there for murder, I witnessed another man take his own life. There, right then, the fuse was lit that was connected to the bomb which was stocked with explosives from my childhood. It went off and I broke.
The jail erupted. I went into shock. I remember the screaming, the banging, the urgency. An officer collapsed into shock in front of me. They cut him down and we sat there staring at him on the floor for 4 hours. A judge found out what happened and that we were in there and held an emergency bond hearing at midnight. Following my release, I was diagnosed with PTSD, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Depression, and Panic Disorder and placed on benzodiazepines. On the pills, I could breathe, eat, sleep and function. I didn’t know that the prescription marked my slow walk into a darkness filled with pain, real physical pain, that can’t be described with mere words. The beginning of my end, I just didn’t know it. How could I?
Following the suicide, the officers realized that my being in there could get them in trouble. The incident report was falsified to add that I “grabbed an officer by the arm” to justify my arrest. See, it’s totally legal and even encouraged under our constitution to question the government when they overstep. As luck would have it, even though the officer’s deleted their body and dash cams, there was a hidden surveillance video that showed my arrest. The video clearly showed the officer’s violated the law and lied on their official reports. I thought that meant it was over and that they would admit what they did and I could move on towards healing. Unfortunately for my mental health, the opposite happened.
They dug in. The police and their attorneys came after me, my family and friends. I was harassed by the blue wall. I received death threats and was in constant fear that I would be re-arrested on fake charges to pressure an end to the now high-profile lawsuit. The harder they came for me, the more resilient I became. The more resilient I became, the worse my mental health and now addiction got.
Finally, after 4 years of hell, I won my case. My charges were dismissed, the law (interfering with an arrest) was thrown out as unconstitutional and the City of Columbia wrote me a check for $300,000. https://wach.com/news/local/lawsuit-over-2009-five-points-arrest-settled-for-300000?id=872755 . However, I was nowhere near healed, or even starting the repairs. I took the money and opened my own law firm where I specialized in Criminal Defense and Civil Rights. Why? Some say it was to project my friends and family. They would be half-right. I knew that I needed to become the best in these two areas for when they came for me again.
I won every single trial above traffic violations that I ever had. For 10 years, I won them all. Murder. Burglary facing life. False confessions. Assaults. Drug Charges and the like. I won every single trial based on one leading theory. Police misconduct. All of them. Due to what happened to me and my desire to expose the corruption, I made it my mission to take it one case at a time. I wish I could say that this part of my life was full of joy and celebration, but, I was too far gone. Consuming 5 mg of Xanax a day on top alcohol and untreated PTSD, I reached darkness that has never been described.
During this time, i searched high and low for someone to talk to. I needed desperately someone to tell me that they broke the same way as I did. I needed to know, were there others in this much pain? Did they make it out? Are our thoughts and nightmares similar? Am I alone? Should I have already taken my life? Was I suffering beyond what a human is capable of? Paranoia, hallucinations, crippling anxiety, uncontrollable emotions like rage, anger, sadness and fear. How much longer could I make it on my own? Sure I had friends, family and a therapist. But where were the other people who could ACTUALLY relate to me?
I searched everywhere. I downloaded every peer support app. Went to every website. Followed every advocate but nothing simply connected me to someone who truly understood and could personally relate to what I was going through. I remember thinking of the design for WhiteFlag in my head. It was what I needed and nothing more. And then, after not sleeping for 4 nights, I attempted to end my pain. I really just wanted to go to sleep, forever was fine with me. I woke up and enrolled in an executive trauma treatment facility in Ocala Fl. Recently married to the love of my life, I used every bit of our money on the fighting chance that I could recover and somehow survive. After 34 days of excruciating pain and withdrawals, I emerged from the facility free from Xanax and alcohol and armed with a vision about what I needed to heal and peer support was a huge part of it.
I returned to South Carolina hopeful but in pain. Looking to continue my healing, I searched for peer support groups to no avail. So, in 2019, I created my areas first PTSD, anxiety and depression support groups. We started out with 2 people in a garage and grew to 60+ people, in person, at our monthly meetings. Our online following grew to over 1,000 people and we were gaining momentum. And then, Covid hit. Everyone’s mental health took a turn for the worse. We couldn’t meet in person so I had to do something. There was too much pain. I could hear the desperation in their voices. So, I started matching people based on their mental health issues and backgrounds. I matched a mother whose son had recently taken his life with another mother who lost her son to suicide, but years earlier. When I saw them post photos together on social media smiling, I knew there was something to it.
I had already thought of the name and idea for WhiteFlag while I was looking for support. However, like most founders, I waited every day to read about something similar being created. Surely someone else will see the massive need for this and create it? My wife continuously encouraged me to go for it but I had spent all of our money on my treatment. That is, until I settled the case of Julian Betton vs. City of Myrtle Beach in the spring of 2020. Julian was shot at 29 times and hit 9 times by bullets fired from 4 AR15’s at point blank range. The shooters? Police officers. The crime? Selling a joint to a veteran who was honorably discharged and 100% mentally disabled from her time in service. Again, there was a hidden video…and oh boy did it prove a massive cover-up and went viral.
Julian’s case settled for $11.25M, the largest civil rights settlement in the history of the state of South Carolina at that time. https://wpde.com/news/local/attorney-set-to-reveal-details-of-civil-case-that-left-myrtle-beach-man-paralyzed . I took every dollar of my attorney fee, called an app developer and commenced work on WhiteFlag. 16 months later, we launched nationwide in the App Store. Today, we have over 17,000 downloads, over 7,000 WhiteFlag’s raised, and over 120,000 messages of support have been sent between peers going through the same things. Oh, and Julian lived. He is paralyzed but in great spirits. Not only a user of WhiteFlag, Julian was also one of our first investors.
In short, I didn’t start a business. I created what I needed and what so many others are desperately looking for. Everything from the colors, tone, brand, marketing, and messaging all was done with the people who I met along the way in mind. Would they use this?

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
If a friend was coming for a week, I would immediately check for the best available concerts showing at the Red Rocks amphitheater before I set the dates. The music scene in Colorado is second to none. From live acoustic shows, to the vibey venues, the music is chill like the people. We would definitely plan a night out to dinner at Sushi Den and to my favorite spot to hangout, Tetra Lounge. There’s so much to do, I would insist on at least 2 of the following activities depending on the time of year: Rockies game, Broncos game, Nuggets game, Denver Zoo, Denver Aquarium, Meow Wolf and of course, the Van Gogh show. Anywhere you go, the atmosphere, mountains and the kindness of the people are second to none.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Adam Hasemeyer and the team at Kin and Carta. Not only did they help take our app from prototype to major contender, but Adam and his executives treat small dreaming startups with the same empathy and compassion as the major corporations that they serve. I am grateful that K and C was there for us when we needed support the most. Thank you Adam.

Website: https://www.whiteflagapp.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/whiteflagapp/

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/whiteflagapp/?fbclid=IwAR0LQ3htSAG6hUDkJTu35utSgFjupiiMlGiNq6D6wav8g4M1UnhyRj8I8Dw

Twitter: https://twitter.com/whiteflagapp

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/whiteflagapp

Other: https://www.tiktok.com/@whiteflagapp

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutColorado is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.