Amidst calls for greater mental health protections, Building Ourselves through Sisterhood and Service hosted a summit this weekend, inviting guest speaker Elyse Fox founder of Sad Girls Club to tackle mental health issues in the event’s keynote address on Saturday.
Fox — a Brooklyn filmmaker — launched Sad Girls Club as community that creates safe spaces for women of color to open up about their mental health, which now boasts over 246K followers on Instagram.
Now, one of the largest organizations that tackles the mental health issues plaguing Gen Z and Millenials, Sad Girls club aims to destigmatize how depression and mental health are treated throughout different circles, Fox said.
For Fox, mental illness is not a foreign concept. Prompted by her own experiences with mental health issues, namely depression, Fox decided to create a video, revealing the “more authentic” struggles faced in her life, beyond the superficial image people see online.
“I wanted to do something else more authentic so I made the film about my depression, and it was … for my friends and family to say like, ‘yeah, I’m doing all these amazing things yeah my life looks perfect online — yeah, it looks really bright and sunny, but I am suffering and it’s really hard for me to ask for help,’” said Fox.
Having posted a snippet of the film on Instagram, Fox immediately logged off of Instagram for a day, in fear of being judged for speaking out about mental health issues.
“I was just so nervous about everyone judging me and how I was going to be seen and people thinking I’m crazy,” Fox said. “I was so afraid of judgment.”
But, the responses that emerged were the exact opposite of Fox’s expectations: She received a flood of messages from her friends requesting more from her, wanting to learn more about her story. “That made me even more nervous to [put] the whole thing out,” Fox said.
However, in retrospect, Fox fears were unwarranted — rather than being judged, Fox served as an inspiration to people struggling with mental health issues but were reluctant to vocalize their feelings.
“I remember the first message I opened was from a 13-year-old girl who lived in Paris … she said, ‘I live in and I’m from a Nigerian family, and I cannot speak about these experiences with my family or they will judge me,” Fox continued.
The key to creating this kind of safe space was to invite people so that they could engage in dialogue with each other, according to Fox. As such, Fox began her quest to fight mental illness by proposing to meet in person with all of her early followers despite being “broke as hell.”
Fox dubbed the experience “beautiful” — from the beginning “the problems were immediately overlapping: I had girls immediately judge each other when they’re in the room. It was split like my girls [her best friends] are here, black over here and Asian girls over here and by the end, girls are exchanging numbers and Instagram with each other.”
Fox closed with calls to action: “We can’t look towards our political figures to help us out — we can’t wait around for the systems to be created for us; we have to create for ourselves and build community amongst each other.”