There’s no doubt that stigma around mental health, especially in Black and brown communities, still exists today. But over the past decade, there has been increased willingness to recognize mental health as an essential part of one’s well-being. More conversations are being had, more resources are being made available. Elyse Fox, for example, launched her platform, Sad Girls Club, as a community and resource that places the mental health wellness of Black and brown women at the forefront. “I wanted to create something for girls to connect in real life and in-person to get rid of the stigma around mental illness,” said Fox in 2017. “I put out a film in December removing my mask and saying, 'Hey, I'm not as happy as I seem, I'm depressed, and here's my story.' That’s when I received a wave of girls saying, 'I feel the same way.' From there, I made it my mission to create something.”
Fox was inspired to start Sad Girls Club in 2016 after the launch of her film, Conversations With Friends, which gave viewers a close look at her own depression. “The film deals specifically with dark and destructive thoughts that most people experience when dealing with depression and anxiety,” she says. “Although the documentary received great traction, I still found myself with deep sadness inside. I decided to counteract my positive external images to show my true internal feelings. The film exposed honest, vulnerable conversations about mental illness with friends that eventually inspired me to start Sad Girls Club.”
Since its inception, Fox has hosted monthly Sad Girls Club group events, running clubs, and art-related activities. She quickly pivoted to digital programming once the pandemic struck last year, launching biweekly group counseling sessions called “Soul Sessions” while also adding breathwork and yoga during weekly schedules as well. With a following of over 280K on Instagram, Fox continues to champion for Black and brown women’s mental wellness, all while raising her 2-year-old son.
For Mental Health Awareness Month, we wanted to highlight Fox and the vital work she does. Here, we talked to her about Sad Girls Club, what she’s learned throughout helping other Black and brown women with their own mental health, and her upcoming projects. Check out the interview below.
As you know, May is Mental Health Awareness month. How important is this month for you and your work?
For us, it’s just another month. We practice the same care and intention year-round. For others, this month is a big deal because mental health becomes the next topic of interest to evoke positive dialogue around our mental wellness. We lean into May to partner with like-minded brands to create events, virtual talks, and content that assists in fundraising for the organization and educating a larger audience.
The pandemic has been a tough time for many. What rituals or habits have gotten you through this period?
I really got lost in my hobbies and gained a couple of new ones this past year and a half. I’ve picked up knitting and focused on filming for my brand ProducedByGirls. I’ve been a lot more intentional with how my time is spent, and like many others, I’ve learned to set boundaries that have helped me create a more balanced lifestyle during a time of uncertainty. I’ve begun writing more and spend less time on my phone in the evening.
The subject of mental health has gained traction over the past couple of years, and to some, it seems like brands are jumping on the bandwagon just because. Has this affected your approach to what brands you partner with? If so, how?
Yup! I had to learn to set boundaries. Our community is very engaged, and they love the events we’re able to curate when partnering with brands. When seeking brand partners, we strive for long-term partnership commitments because mental health/mental health awareness should not be prioritized for just one month. I look for authenticity and long-term support.
What has been your favorite part about creating a platform that caters to the mental wellness of Black and brown women?
The community, for sure. We recently held an event at Billionaire Boys Club’s SoHo store and spoke candidly about fears and insecurities when entering the world post-Covid-19. Everyone was really open and vulnerable. It’s wonderful to see how our members thrive and heal when given the safe space to do so.
What do you envision for SGC in the future? Are there any exciting upcoming collaborations/partnerships that you can speak to?
Just keep watching. I don’t want to spoil anything, but we’re developing new programming, creating hybrid events (IRL and virtual), and will be partnering with a few brands and faces you may know.
What do you have to say in regards to misconceptions about mental health? Do you have any positive sentiments about mental health awareness?
I believe misconceptions will always exist but I find comfort knowing that we have the power to shift the narrative. Be kind to everyone, there’s already enough against us and you never know what someone is experiencing internally.