Photo: The Pink Protest
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MIND

How an online club for sad girls is changing the conversation around mental health

Sad Girls Club is an online platform for girls struggling with their mental health. Last week, it held its first UK event with a panel of celebrities and activists keen to break down barriers

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By Amy Jones on

A 2017 NHS study showed that a quarter of teen girls in the UK are exhibiting some symptoms of mental-health problems. In 2015/2016, Childline received over 50,000 messages and calls specifically about suicidal feelings, self-harm, mental health or depressive disorders, and they had seven times more contacts about these issues from girls than from boys. In Girlguiding’s latest survey, 37 per cent of young women aged 11 to 21 said that they had previously had to get help with their mental health. We can’t ignore it any longer – we are a nation of sad girls. But, thanks to Sad Girls Club, they have a place to find support.

Sad Girls Club was founded in 2017 by filmmaker Elyse Fox. She had recently released a film, Conversations with Friends, about how she lived with depression and was being contacted by girls all over the world who wanted someone to help guide them through their own mental-health problems. She couldn’t help everyone so she did the next best thing: she created a way for them to help each other.

You don’t feel lonely when you leave the club – you feel uplifted, you feel welcomed, you feel accepted

“I created Sad Girls Club for girls who were experiencing depression and anxiety, and who were similar to me. They didn’t have an outlet to talk about their mental health or mental illness, so I wanted to create a physical and digital space,” Elyse said. “Through Sad Girls Club, we have an online platform on Instagram and we have monthly events that are free for our members in New York State.

“Sad Girls Club offers the opportunity for you to connect with someone through mental health in a positive way. You don’t feel lonely when you leave the club – you feel uplifted, you feel welcomed, you feel accepted, and I think that’s something that was hard to find in the past.”

Last Thursday, Sad Girls Club held their first international event in London. It was an evening of poetry, guided meditation and open discussion about mental health chaired by The Pool’s Sali Hughes. Speakers at the event included Thandie Newton, Munroe Bergdorf, Jordan Stephens and poet Charly Cox. The event was hosted with The Pink Protest, a organisation aiming to make it easier for other women to get involved in activism.

“When I was 17, I was diagnosed with anxiety, depression and PTSD,” said Scarlett Curtis, co-founder of The Pink Protest. “When I started going through it, I thought I was the first person in the world who had ever had a mental illness. I was so ashamed of it and I was so hateful of it, and that shame really can build. When I met Elyse and found out about Sad Girls Club, it’s just the most amazing way to be reducing that stigma and finding community, and I think that can be one step in a person’s journey towards getting a bit better.”

What we need is for young women to appreciate that they have so much to offer

The benefits of community and acceptance was a huge theme of the night. “When I was growing up, absolutely nobody talked about mental health in any way,” said Pool columnist Sali Hughes. “Just the notion that all these women were getting together and talking about mental health would have been hugely beneficial for me. I thought I was just going mad.”

“I think that anything like this – that is really helping people to understand their behaviours and understand that there are other people going through this – that’s an amazing thing,” said model Munroe Bergdorf.

“What we need is for young women to appreciate that they have so much to offer,” said Dr Colette Hirsch, researcher at mental-health charity MQ. “If they can turn off that self-critical way of criticising themselves and actually really engage with life in a different way and be more compassionate to themselves, then that would be really helpful for 2018.” In other words, young girls are amazing – if we can just get them to realise that and be kinder to themselves, then who knows what they’d be able to achieve – and Sad Girls Club is an important part of that.

@jimsyjampots

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Photo: The Pink Protest
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