Elyse Fox's Own Deep Depression Led Her To Found A Community Tasked With Improving Mental Health For Black Women

Elyse Fox

Elyse Fox's Own Deep Depression Led Her To Found A Community Tasked With Improving Mental Health For Black Women

The founder of Sad Girls Club is changing how we see depression.

Published 1 week ago

Written by Jazmine A. Ortiz

Have you ever wondered how mental health affects your sex drive? Or what you can supplement for therapy when you can’t afford therapy sessions with a doctor? Or how to stay sane when the winter weather has you feeling funky AF? Me too.

Well, there’s a club for all of that. The Sad Girls Club, the largest female-led non-profit organization with a focus on mental health for women of color igniting conversations with Gen Z and Millennials online and IRL. Its founder, Elyse Fox, says she “stumbled” into activism a couple of years ago when she released a short film, Conversations With Friends, about what she calls her worst year of depression. She had just gotten out of a really abusive relationship and just made a move back to New York City from Los Angeles.

“I was so anxious when I would go out into public spaces that I kind of just hid behind my camera, and I wanted to be involved. I’d go to all these events, but I didn't really want to speak or have people ask me, like, ‘Oh, how was LA?’ or anything like that. The 2016 film sparked a movement that snowballed into what Sad Girls Club is today. Maybe because it’s not super dark and depressing like you would imagine a film about depression. “It just shows you that you can really have an amazing looking life, but you can still be suffering inside,” says Fox.

Living in New York, Fox knows all too well the effects of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) a.k.a. feeling funky AF when the cold weather starts hitting. With the cooler weather creeping up like clockwork, I wanted to pick Fox's brain on the topic, since at Sad Girls Club she facilitates workshops that offer women tangible tools that help.

The Mayo Clinic defines SAD:

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that's related to changes in seasons — SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year. If you're like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody.

The worst part is that, according to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), symptoms can last for approximately 40% of the year. I, too, live in New York, where summers can produce heat waves, but winters can get harsh, so any morsel of advice on how to cope that Fox was offering, I was all ears.

Sad Girls Club offers workshops on art therapy, or “sneaky” therapy, as Fox likes to call it sometimes...

“Most of the time it's more art therapy-based, because we don't want it to seem like it’s a scary thing. Therapy, just the word itself, can be very, just frightening if it's a new thing for you. And the thought of even coming, just kind of thinking about your experiences in a public form, is a lot. So we do, like, what I called sneaky therapy, where I'll have in a prop that’s something physical. So we'll have, like, a poetry slam, or we've done an embroidery class. There's an intention in the beginning of the class, and maybe we'll do some either meditation work or I'll prompt with a question that helps us problem-solve our mental health issues for that season.”

Taking up embroidery can be a helpful tool for SAD…

“We spoke about seasonal depression at the [last] embroidery event and how it can be this a quick kind of thing to pull out on the train, or if you're having an anxiety attack at work and you just go into the bathroom and do embroidery for about five minutes. It's a very soothing and relaxing thing. So we just are really big on providing tools that are accessible to communities and just sharing our stories."

Fox says it’s OK, even necessary, to confront your friends about visible changes you notice…

“I think it's also important to kind of call it out now with my friends, like if I see their mood change. Just having negative weather always is already going to ruin someone's day, so if things aren't going well at work or in a relationship, there's a snowball effect. So I really try to pay attention to people in my circle and how their communication changes or, you know, their appetite changes or if they're really, really tired and sleeping all day."

Make sure you’re getting enough D…

It's extremely important to get outside and to get vitamin D, even if it is cold outside, even if it’s just to the store. Or take up running as a sport. It's vital to your happiness. If you don't want to go outside, you have to at least supplement with vitamin D by taking it [in pill form].

Host a Friendsgiving or other event to look forward to…

"And I think also just having something to look forward to is something that’s very beneficial to me, and I always recommend it for my girls as well. So if a holiday is coming up and you barely want to go out, create your own events. I started hosting Friendsgiving, where I'll have friends come over and we'll cook something together or they'll bring over something.

"I’ll be putting these in practice. And you can find Fox leading the next Sad Girls Club meeting and in Keds’ "Together We Rise" campaign, which looks to celebrate fearless females at every step of their journey as she continues to destigmatize depression for women of color." 

(Photo courtesy of Keds)

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