Mental health can be one of the most difficult things to talk about. Despite the fact that most people are touched in some way by mental illness — whether themselves or through someone they love — too often, being candid about this topic isn't easy. But there are people who are trying to change that.
Elyse Fox is the founder of Sad Girls Club, an online community for women seeking support for mental health issues. Growing up in a Caribbean family that didn't discuss mental health, Elyse realized she never truly learned how to talk about how she was feeling. After realizing she was not alone in her struggles, she felt compelled to create a space where people could come together to support one another.
The group serves many different functions, from hosting live-stream meetings with social workers to attending poetry readings. It also provides resources and alternative remedies, recognizing that beyond the initial stigma, cost barriers are a huge reason why many people — especially people of color — don't get the mental health help that they need.
Sad Girls Club goes beyond a traditional mental health resource — it is a community where women can come together, not only to discuss mental health but to hold space for one another.
We had the privilege of speaking with Elyse to discuss her inspirations, intentions, and hopes for the future.
LEVO: Can you talk a little bit about your personal experience with mental illness and how it led you to launch this incredible initiative?
ELYSE: I started Sad Girls Club in February of this year after I released a film specifically about my mental illnesses I received a wave of women and young girls who wanted a mentor within the community. I wanted to create something for girls to connect in real life and online to get rid of the stigma around mental illness. I'm a first-generation Caribbean woman. The topic of mental illness was never discussed in my home. The film I released in December, Conversations With Friends, was my way of removing my mask and saying, 'Hey, I'm not as happy as I seem, I'm depressed and here's my story.' From there I made it my mission to create something for girls so they know they're not alone.
L: Where did the name Sad Girls Club come from?
E: I wanted to create a club with an approachable name for girls and young women. Back when Twitter was my go-to app. I would suffix my diary style tweets with '#SadGirlElyse.' The name of the club is derivative from that time in my life.
L: How did you bring your idea to life?
E: I organized everything through Instagram. I created a Sad Girls Club account and invited women in the tri-state area to meet at our 1st summit in February.
L: What have you learned from the girls you've worked with?
E: I've learned that no matter where they're from, how old they are and what economic class they belong to, there's a consistent feeling of solitude amongst our girls. I'm extremely blown away by our younger members who have become open about their personal mental health and struggles. The biggest lesson I've learned is united we stand strong and proud and I'm happy to lead a rapidly growing mental health platform.
L: What are your plans for the future of the Sad Girls Club?
E: I hope to bring Sad Girls Club IRL events to low-income communities around the country. I have a lot of fun things to share about SGC, once details are finalized I'll be making announcements.
L: What do you think needs to change about the conversation surrounding mental health?
E: I think we should speak about our mental health the same way we discuss sex, music, and trending topics. I think the shift in the conversation needs to happen now. One in five Americans is going through some type of mental illness. If you aren’t personally, you know someone who is. It's not something negative; it's something that's out of people's hands.
But before you do all that, you need to watch Elyse's incredible short doc, Conversations With Friends, chronicling one year of her life under the shadow of depression. It's a beautiful and deeply honest personal journey that explores the relationship between friendship, art, and healing.
Read more from Your Brain on Work, Levo's new series on our emotions, feelings, thoughts, mental health and states of mind as we navigate our careers. If you have a story you'd like to share, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Images courtesy of Elyse Fox)