Elyse Fox is the founder of Sad Girls Club, an organization started in 2017 with the purpose of normalizing mental health awareness by making mental health resources more accessible, and to create a safe space for people of all ages, ethnicities and gender identities to open a dialogue on mental illness. Managing what began as an Instagram page that quickly grew into a non-profit, Elyse took some time out of her busy schedule to talk to us about her upcoming projects and what it’s like to run her own business.
What inspired you to start Sad Girls Club?
I started Sad Girls Club after I released a film that was a documentary about my worst year of depression. Once I released the film, there were a lot of girls from around the world who reached out to me for advice and to talk about their experiences and their own mental health. I was receiving so many messages that I just created an Instagram page to kind of filter everything out and I called it Sad Girls Club. I wanted to provide resources because a lot of the girls who reached out to me were eleven, twelve, thirteen years old and really didn’t have anybody to speak to, so I just wanted to create a platform for girls to learn about mental health and kind of normalize it.
When I was reading up about Sad Girls Club, I noticed one of your goals is to create a real life community for women to foster inclusivity and awareness regarding mental health. Tell me more about the events you’ve been doing to create this community.
Since January when I started the page, I’ve been having events every month. We had at least twenty events last year, and they were all around the country, and we had one in London this past January which is our first international one. We’re also having another one next week in London again. Basically, we think that’s the best way to build community: to put the devices down and look at another human and have that authenticity.
I’m learning to appreciate the calm and quiet that lives outside NYC. I feel it’s SO necessary to travel and step outside of your surroundings. Explore a bit, get lost, allow yourself to be bored & sit with yourself. I definitely learn so much about myself being in nature with fresh air and loved ones within arms reach. We aren’t free in this country so I take control over the things I can, I’m actively working to spend time to *SEE* those who matter to me IRL social media is draining af💘🌞 Photo by the loml @jockograves
A lot of the way we communicate with the world is through social media which has its benefits in moderation, but sometimes it can be detrimental to mental health and having real life interaction is definitely important. What was it like transitioning from something as small as an Instagram page to something bigger than that? I’m sure it’s a lot of work to run your own business and can be a bit stressful. How are you managing? Do you have a team to help you out?
When I first started Sad Girls Club, I was working a part-time front desk job. I actually got promoted at that job, so I was working full-time for a startup and at the same time the startup was growing, Sad Girls Club was growing almost double. So I was working multiple jobs just trying to keep up, and I was just like, Okay, I can do this. I’ll do it for as long as I can possibly do it mentally, and I’ll use this money to fund Sad Girls Club. I was doing really well and I live really minimally, so I was — despite working another job — actually able to fund my business, and I’ve been working full time for Sad Girls Club since January. It’s definitely been the right decision because I’m able to have time and the headspace to just focus on this one thing, and it does become stressful, but because I’m not working for anyone else, I can set boundaries that I couldn’t if I was with another company. Learning business is hard and I would recommend to anyone starting a business to find mentors. Reach out to whoever you look up to, tell them how much they’ve inspired you and ask for tips or to meet for coffee, because those relationships have been so important to making Sad Girl Club what it is today.
What are your long term goals for Sad Girls Club?
For the next five years, I definitely want to have the first mental health national and world tour. Like the same way artists and musicians go on tour, I want to have everyone from the mental health and wellness community — whether they’re big influencers or high school girls who just want to be a part of it — to stop into America’s saddest cities and give mental health resources and provide knowledge. That’s something that I’m actively working on and I’ve just received our non-profit status about three weeks ago so I can begin fundraising and actually put this whole thing together. Another thing in five years I want is to have a couple physical Sad Girls Club spaces around the country. I’m still curating what that looks like and what the details are but I do think that anyone should be able to pop in and receive help when they need it and it shouldn’t have to be scheduled a week. I just feel like some people need to talk to someone in the moment and it shouldn’t be that hard, so I want to provide that — and make it obviously really cool and cute.
How did you come up with the name? Is it open to all genders?
The club is for everyone. I started with that name because I wanted to create a club for myself at the age of seven or eight when I didn’t know what the words depression or anxiety meant, and those words are so heavy that I wanted to create something that when you look at it, you can kind of instantly know what it is if you’re a young girl so I was thinking about a young Elyse — like what she would be attracted to when she was young and sad. I didn’t want to call it the Depression Women’s Club or something like that, since it’s so heavy. I know depression and mental health are really serious topics but there’s so many funny nuances that happen on the day to day. Not only comedians can laugh about their pain, we can also laugh about the little quirky moments that we go through like dude yesterday I really thought like, I didn’t want to live and now I’m like on the top of the world or when you say things and you’re just like why the hell did I just say that? I just wanted to create a name that was like light. I’m working on creating different branches so all people can feel comfortable with a group of people they see themselves in. All of our events, literally everyone can come… We have grandmothers coming, we have young girls coming… Whatever you identify as, it’s always a safe space.
Speaking of young Elyse, what advice would you give to that Elyse before she started Sad Girls Club?
I would say, it would be the hardest thing, but to speak up to someone you trust about what you’re going through and don’t be afraid to feel what you feel.
Although our digital age allows us to speak to the world with ease through social media, there is still a lot of work to be done to promote mental health advocacy and awareness. Besides being a part of SGC, do you have any general advice for people on integrating awareness in their own cultures and communities?
I think everyone is getting tired of seeing everything look so perfect. Being real should have always been in but I think especially now, people are just really aware and are really craving authenticity. I always like to prompt questions in my captions so people can interact with me and it’s not just like, just tell me how I look. I think that’s a good way to like start the conversation, like asking people how’s your day today? or how’s your mental health doing today? I’m feeling like this… and just be more open. I think asking your community to participate makes you feel less alone and it’s starting a dialogue.
What projects are you currently working on that you’d like to share with NBGA readers?
Yes, we’re fundraising actively now so if anyone wants to donate, all the money goes back to Sad Girls Club events, and they can do that from our website SadGirlsClub.org. Also, we have a lot of fun collaborations coming up this fall and winter, with some really great brands like Unbound Babes to talk about sex positivity, and we’re also starting a run club with Nike in NYC this fall as well. So if anyone wants to join, it’s going to be absolutely free and it will be a great experience for people to get to know each other and to get active.
by Bianca Ocampo