Filmmaker and activist Elyse Fox first made waves with her documentary Conversations with Friends before founding Sad Girls Club, creating safe spaces for women and fostering a strong sense of community.
Elyse Fox founded Sad
Girls Club in 2017, building an online community to bridge the
gap between Instagram and real-life support for girls battling mental
illness. Her documentary “Conversations with Friends” received an
astounding response from women all over the world, prompting her to
create an online community as well as real-life safe spaces for the
women she’d reached through her film.
Building a sense of community is something that’s always been
important at Timberland — it’s in
our heritage. We give all our employees the opportunity to get
involved with up to 40 hours
of paid community service each year, to show how serious we are
about giving back. Communities can help to heal individuals, but they
can also bring people together to help others. We sat down with Elyse
to discuss the importance of community.
Elyse Fox: Sad Girls Club began in January 2017 as a small
group on Instagram where I talked about self-care, emotions and
challenges connected to the subject. Today we have 70k online
members and frequently host events in different cities.
The healing power of community
Loneliness and isolation are two of the main causes of poor mental health. That’s why communities are so important. Of course, they can’t exist without a network of dedicated volunteers to keep them running. The Sad Girls Club brought in volunteers to take their community offline and into the real world and they now host safe space meetups for followers, so they have a supportive place to chat.
At Timberland, we know that our people want to give something back, but it can be tough to fit in volunteer time around work. That’s why we developed a way to make it easy for our employees to give their valuable time to the causes that matter most to them.
We launched our ‘Path of Service’ project back in 1992 and since then, our employees have logged more than 1 million hours of volunteer work worldwide, with projects including health clinics, financial services, child care and clean drinking water for factory communities. But we’re still counting and with continued team dedication, we plan to hit 1.5 million hours of volunteer work by 2020.
Elyse Fox: Community is definitely essential for healing and growing. Our priority is to provide a safe space for an open inclusive discussion and bring together girls who can’t afford traditional therapy and medicine.
Inclusivity and community go hand in hand. When volunteers come together with local communities, real healing and transformation can take place.
Once a year, Timberland teams from across the globe come together for Serv-a-Palooza, a one-day event that sees everyone volunteering their time to help underprivileged communities. Supporting and transforming local communities is a Timberland tradition that dates back decades and our team is determined to continue building a legacy of volunteer work and making a difference.
As well as acting as a support system and an environment for belonging, communities can also help to open a dialogue about important issues. Elyse says that, through the Sad Girls Club community, many women have found a voice to articulate poorly understood aspects of mental health. Listening to this community voice has been a valuable teaching tool and a healing form of self-expression.
Elyse Fox: I believe the best way to learn about mental health is by listening to the community. My most recent film, “Conversations with Friends” was about how I came out to my friends and family about my mental health struggles.
How to get involved
Getting involved with a local or online community could go a long way to helping loved ones or strangers. Here are some simple things you can do to help:
- Encourage loved ones to go to real-life community meetups
- Offer your help to a local charity
- Organise an event to raise awareness for a charity close to your heart
- Research, share and promote relevant online communities
Communities — both online and off — are crucial in the way we engage with the world and they’re ideal for connecting people. As Elyse has shown, communities that have an open dialogue online can play an important and responsible role, building bridges and helping people. They’re a way to get people talking, to share experiences, to listen and be listened to, at a pace that feels comfortable and in an environment that feels safe.