sadface.club want to change how we talk about mental health online
Sadface.club hopes to be a digital haven for the sad, depressed and socially anxious, where you can share and read stories of mental illness and where judgement is never passed.
Sadness, it seems, is on the rise. More people are talking about their feelings than ever before. With Audrey Wollens' Sad Girl Theory, Melissa Broder's over-pessimistic and all-too-relatable Twitter account @SoSadToday, and Yung Lean's Sad Boys, the shame surrounding your unhappy thoughts is slowly but surely being revolutionised, and sadface.club is the one to join if you're feeling down. Started by Sienna Murdoch in January 2016 ("when the New Year dread kicked in"), sadface.club is an online platform that livestreams sad tweets on its homepage, but it's so much more than 140-character soliloquies to Harry Styles or Prince. From anorexia to being diagnosed bipolar, and from taking medication to watching Midsomer Murders, members of the club share their own personal stories and coping mechanisms for dealing with mental health issues, and are encouraged to use their real names accompanied by a picture of themselves, in an attempt to remove the stigma that anonymity implies and help you feel like it's not too embarrassing to talk about it. Join the club to learn you're not the only one who over-thinks, self-sabotages and lies in bed for days eating Nutella and putting themselves down, but also to learn that there are ways to make yourself feel better, mostly starting with talking about it. We talked to Sienna about sadface.club to make us feel :)
Why did you start sadface.club?
It was originally a list of my coping mechanisms that I kept on my Google Keeps. I would refer to them when I was down. I put them onto a website and shared with friends when they were having a shit time. When looking for a domain, only .biz or .club were available and .club was cheaper. That inspired me to make it collaborative. I've had some amazing but mostly horrific experiences under NHS psychiatric care. I had the capability of being open so felt I probably should and plant a modest seed for awareness and change.
What are some of the best sad tweets you've read?
"I feel really sad when I see people haven't filled in their eyebrows, are they ok?"
When did you first encounter the feelings of "skull caving anxiety" that you refer to?
I remember when I was about seven, being so anxious I thought I was going to die, and sort of hoped I did. I had no idea how to articulate such alien thoughts. It wasn't until I was 15 that I became honest with my friends - I couldn't cover up months I was away from school while I was in and out of hospital.
Do you find it difficult to talk about your own mental health?
I instantly regretted posting sadface.club on my Facebook, switched on airplane mode for 12 hours and furiously baked and cleaned. I pretend to be more confident about being open than I am - hoping it will be the change I'd like to see. I worry that people think it's a cringe idea, that I'm seeking pity or promoting it as an accessory. I mention my medication's gross side effects and being sectioned and I don't think that's a cool look. It's something I'd end in an instant if I could, even if it's made me "enigmatic" as my mum puts it. My mental health has interfered with everything that's been precious. I dread starting new jobs and relationships - it feels embarrassing and a heavy, burdening responsibility they'll have to take on.
Has talking about your own mental health problems helped you?
Creating something functioning out of something that has been so destructive has given me control. Being unstable is now a hobby. I was dancing at a party and a friend tapped me on the shoulder to chat about their medication as if they were like, offering me a drink. It made me so happy that sadface might empower lurkers to be open IRL.
How do you find the members of the club?
By harnessing the interest in stalking your friends, it's turned snoopers into members. I try to be strict about a post including a picture of the writer, so people engage when those around them have. Anonymity encourages the idea it's something to be ashamed about and a theme so often found in mental health campaigns. The posts don't really go through any quality checks, we're not internet celebrities, we don't try to be eloquent - so I hope it's very accessible for people to come forward.
How do you think starting an online community will help those with mental health problems?
It's been easier for me to be honest now I'm part of a collective of people doing so too. Members find it rewarding getting involved in the growth of the site - pulling their experiences and creating projects within it. We laugh at our shared self-loathing, and realise we unhealthily clutch onto it because it is familiar and thus oddly comforting.
What reactions have you received to the site so far?
I flipped when we received over 5000 unique visitors to the site in the first month. People were spending an average of 3.5 minutes reading everything and interestingly, it was 60% men. Friends I hadn't spoken to in years slipped into my DMs saying they had also experienced hard times or had cared for someone that did. I think people engage with the oy vey tone, we're all more comfortable when we're half joking.
Were you surprised that's it's mostly men who visit sadface.club?
It was a delight they engage. They visit the site more but they don't contribute or fill out the survey as much, perhaps it feels emasculating. My ex said men visit the site because crazy girls are hot, (thanks Chris!) We need to find a way to encourage men to participate.
What advice would you give those who find it difficult to come out to their friends/family about having a depressive episode?
Some people are great listeners and others aren't as equipped, which is due to poor Mental Health education. We need to be taught how to recognise when we or someone we know needs help. I wouldn't know how to deal with a friend with an eating disorder, for example. The Samaritans is one of my most treasured resources when I don't have the strength to talk to someone I know. The more I talked, the more I solidified a comfortable way of explaining to friends. I've been told in cheesy self-help books to look through the eyes of someone that cares for me and how much they'd want to help if they could.
What are the three best coping mechanisms you've found have helped you?
1. Making sure I'm eating and sleeping properly and not just binging on a packet of desiccated coconut before bed.
2. Thinking about ideas for sadface feels like I'm contributing to my own recovery.
3. Embarrassingly, I use Paul Mckenna's How To Change Your Life in 10 Days app, which I adore but hide in the back of my iPhone. I also have his book that I've wrapped in brown paper for when I'm on the tube.
How do you think the NHS can improve their mental health service?
GPs are usually the first point of contact for help and it's a common story people leave appointments feeling unsupported. More funding has been put into community mental health teams, which means people don't have to be treated in hospital and then have to readapt after being discharged. But the resources are overwhelmed, normally a 3 month waiting list to see a counsellor. Often they don't offer support unless you're suicidal or a danger to others. I felt I had to create an urgency or shape myself into a diagnosis to receive that help. There is also an inequality in different genders and races receiving fair treatment.
Do you think attitudes towards mental health are changing?
Yes and fast - in the same way feminism and gender discussions have become more than tolerated - with Transparent and Suffragette catering to a mainstream audience. In January, Stacey from Eastenders suffered a psychotic episode. Radio 1Xtra's News Beat recently made a documentary on male anorexia and Jeremy Corbyn elected Luciana Berger - our first Minister for Mental Health.
Where do you see sadface.club heading?
We need more submissions, particularly from men. Sometimes I'm too shy to talk to a real person at Samaritans so I'd love to do a phone line with pre-recorded, comforting messages. I also want to roll out shiny blue membership cards that get you discounts on flat whites and massages etc lol. I think creative brands will soon get behind initiatives de-stigmatising mental health issues, in the way that Selfridges and M&S promoted gender awareness and feminism. We need to take a contemporary approach and loosen the formality of discussing mental health.
This week, Mental Health Awareness Week takes place in the UK, in an effort to increase the conversation around the much neglected subject. To coincide, all week i-D.co will share voices from the fashion industry and beyond, discussing their thoughts, feelings and experiences of suffering from mental health issues.
Text Felicity Kinsella
Photography Dexter Lander