Sad Girls Club: How Elyse Fox Built a Mental Health Community

“Knowing that someone is experiencing similar issues makes you feel less alone and less isolated.”

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The short film “Conversations with Friends” opens to the sight of a medical bracelet. Then you see bandages over wrists, sneakers dangling at the edge of a hospital bed, and scars and cuts.

Elyse Fox, the film’s creator, is then seen looking at herself in the mirror, asking, “How could I trick people for this long, and how could they not notice?” This theme of secrecy inspired the film and eventually led Fox to found Sad Girls Club, a mental health community for women.

“I created Sad Girls Club after my own lived experience with suicide and depression,” says Fox. “I wanted to create a space just for girls to have a place that felt like home within their mental health journey.”

The Film That Launched a Community

Fox’s eight-minute film juxtaposes quick shots of daily life—a concert, a card swipe to enter the subway, a friend waiting to cross the street—with a range of conversations with friends she says helped save her life.

Fox says the film was a way for her to break her silence about her depression. Mental health was not something discussed in her home, and she figured her moments of anxiety and depression were just a normal part of life.  Finally, she set out to change that: “Something just clicked and I wanted to talk about it, and I just wanted to be real about it—for once.”

As personal as the project was, it resonated deeply with people beyond her own social circle. “I received just a wave of support from girls around the country and around the world that saw themselves in my story,” says Fox.

The Impact of Sad Girls Club

In response to the flood of emails Fox was receiving, she created an Instagram account called Sad Girls Club in Jan 2017. She let fans of her film know that this account would serve as a place for them to ask questions, connect with others, and get resources about mental health topics.

In addition to the Instagram account, Sad Girls Club met monthly in person. Fox would bring in a therapist or other mental health professional as a guest to provide free therapy for the attendees. The women can also discuss tools for living with depression, hash out problems they’re experiencing, or simply build friendships.

The events and the online community helped women open up about their mental health. “Just knowing that someone else is experiencing … similar issues to what you’re going through makes you feel less alone and less isolated,” says Fox, “and you’re able to support one another.”

“A lot of girls tell me that Sad Girls Club has helped them tremendously,” says Fox. Her assistant, who was 16 when she joined Sad Girls Club, told her that the community was vital to her completing high school.

Fox has even bigger goals for Sad Girls Club. “In five years, I want Sad Girls Club to be the rockstars of mental health. I want to go on tour and bring Sad Girls Club and the support to girls who don’t have access to resources,” says Fox. “I want to find girls before they know they need to find us, and be there at the first step.”