Get the latest from TODAY

Sign up for our newsletter
/ Source: TODAY
By Brittany Loggins

As Instagram culture booms, people have the option to either build each other up or tear each other down. For Elyse Fox, 27, the social media platform was an opportunity to influence positive change.

Fox, a social media associate in New York City, has struggled with depression since she was a teenager. After a cross-country move and a big break up, Fox decided to face her struggles head on by creating a community called Sad Girls Club — and she did this through Instagram.

“I was experiencing a lot of depression and solitude just trying to figure out life,” Fox told TODAY. “So I decided to make something for other people like me.”

Since launching in February, the Instagram account has gained over 16,000 followers — a number that Fox finds inspiring. The account posts content that has been submitted by its followers — always accompanied by an inspirational message.

“I ask girls to submit their artwork or whatever their release is for their mental health,” said Fox. “I just want to give everyone a platform where they can feel like they’re heard.”

After receiving such a great response to these posts, Fox decided to start planning meetings that would allow young girls with similar experiences in dealing with depression to come together and support one another. Fox then reached out to psychotherapist Shira Burstein to ask if she would be interested in supporting this movement, and she was.

“I had one girl who came to a meeting — she was the youngest that we’d had at that point,” said Fox. “She was 16 and said that she had been looking for something like this for years.”

The meetings feature hosts who speak about the ways in which they deal with their own depression. For the first meeting, the club hosted an open-mic night where members could read poetry or essays in the company of their peers.

“Basically we were all gathered in this really cool space,” Emily Odesser, 16, told TODAY. “We all got up and read our poem — mine was about my relationship with depression and anxiety.”

Since that first meeting the club has learned from an art therapist who led an activity in Bryant Park, tried meditation and participated in an activity that let members express their concerns anonymously and talk through them as a group.

“These events are not only fun, but they allow us the opportunity to artistically express ourselves,” said member Danielle Pope, 28. “I really love how Sad Girls Club creatively gets the conversation going about mental health.”

The Sad Girls Club followers are truly engaged with the content. The comments section of each post are inspiring and uplifting. Just as Fox intended, it really feels like a community.

“I just want people to understand that having a mental illness isn’t a negative thing,” said Fox. “I think people assume that depression has a certain face or personality, and I’m here to say that it doesn’t.”