Elyse Fox grew up under the impression that mental health should not be discussed and was never a topic of conversation.
Elyse Fox, a filmmaker and founder of The Sad Girls Club, will appear on a panel discussion about mental health awareness moderated by Women's Health's editor-in-chief Amy Keller Laird. Check out @womenshealthmag at 6:30 p.m. EST on Monday, May 15th, to watch the panel on Instagram Live.
Elyse Fox grew up under the impression that mental health should not be discussed. The 27-year-old's Caribbean upbringing, which Elyse says was very traditional, meant mental health was never a topic of conversation.
But a lot has changed since Elyse was growing up. For one, she's acknowledged her mental illness, a dark depression she says always made her feel like she was fooling everybody.
"I always felt like there was something a bit off where I was not as happy as others and I just kept it to myself," she says.
Elyse, an Instagram star and filmmaker, founded the Sad Girls Club soon after her clinical depression diagnosis in 2016. The group is comprised of a network of women seeking support for their mental-health issues, whether that's anxiety, depression, or even something undiagnosed. Elyse livestreams the meetings she hosts with Shira Burstein, a licensed clinical social worker.
The meetings include a curriculum of sorts, including natural remedies and ways to get help at a low cost. "I wanted to create in-real-life events for women that didn't exist, because it can be so hard for girls to be open about mental health because they don't have resources," Elyse says.
High costs and a lack of resources are huge issues specifically for women of color like Elyse. African Americans are 10 percent more likely to experience mental-health problems than the general population, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health. What's worse: African Americans are 7.3 times more likely to live in high poverty neighborhoods with very little access to mental-health services, according to the American Psychological Association.
"I think there's a different dynamic for women of color and mental health," she says. "I wasn't labeled as someone going through things, I was labeled as the angry black woman when that wasn't the case. I just had a chemical imbalance in my brain."
There's not much representation in the world of mental health care for women of color either, with African Americans making up just 2 percent of all psychologists in the country, according to the APA.
"We don't have many examples of women of color speaking out about it either," Elyse says. However, she's recently bonded with Atlanta star Zazie Beetz, who opened up about her mental illness to Elyse, and whose mother is an African-American social worker.
"It's incredible dope and I felt at home, like I finally had an outlet who understands where I was coming from and could truly relate," Elyse says.
The two met at The Wing, a female co-working space in New York, where the first Sad Girls Club meeting took place. "The Wing has been one of the most positive things that has happened in my life," she says. "It's full of women who are just supportive. It's a hub of support."
That support is something Elyse hopes will grow from her club and her ongoing honesty on Instagram.
While social media can sometimes be a place of discomfort for those with mental illnesses, Elyse thinks many can find solace in Instagram's #hereforyoucampaign, which shows all sorts of supportive content to anyone who is struggling.
She also relies on #kindcomments, which filters out negative comments and helps bring awareness to the good parts of life, she says.
"I think whenever you aren’t being honest with yourself you’re going to feel like you’re not yourself and like you're wearing a mask," she says. "I always felt like I was hiding but now, just by using Instagram, by the touch of a button I'm able to help people."