Sad Girls Club Executive Director Brianne Patrice on Motherhood & Mental Health, Sexual Assault, and Mental Health for Women of Color

Name: Brianne Patrice
Role: Executive Director of Sad Girls Club
Based in: Brooklyn, NY
Age: 32
ATEM and Brianne Patrice of Sad Girls Club

Sad Girls Club is a non profit 501(c)(3) organization founded to create community and diminish stigma around mental health, with a focus on serving and supporting women of color.

I have studied and admired Sad Girls Club and the incredible work its done as the largest mental health non-profit in for Millennials and GenZ; we share a mission and purpose of making premium mental health and wellness conversations and support accessible to the greater public.

Recently, we had the pleasure of getting acquainted with and interviewing Brianne Patrice, the Executive Director of Sad Girls Club. The interview was particularly enjoyable for me as I admired her equal candidness and prudence in not speaking to others’ life experiences as if they were her own. Her actions reflect a staunch commitment to conveying reverence and real acknowledgment of the unique experiences and lives of the 287,000 strong community she supports and represents. Cultural sensitivity is a huge grounding point for ATEM, and this was something we were inspired by in our interview with Brianne:

1. In your words, describe who you are 

Oh, I am many things lol. I am a woman, first. A mother, second. And a creative, third. But most importantly, I am black. And my experiences and my work are a reflection of that.

2. How has your background and experiences influenced your decision to work as a mental health advocate and activist? 

I felt alone as a child. I was often scared and felt misunderstood. Was definitely ridiculed and suffered through physical abuse. By the time I was a teenager, I’d written my first suicide note to my mother (and notice I said first because I contemplated suicide again in my twenties). And I was raped at the age of 17. My first time publicly saying this but I feel that it’s time. I didn’t choose to be an advocate or an activist, the work chose me. 

3. Can you describe the mission of Sad Girls Club? How did it go viral and what goals do you have for Sad Girls in the future?

Sad Girls Club, founded by Elyse Fox in 2017, is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization established to create community and diminish the stigma around mental health. We cater to women of color and the Gen Z and millennial population. It went viral after Elyse released an Youtube video called, Conversations With Friends, that detailed her own struggle with depression and anxiety. We are currently working to make therapy more accessible within underserved communities through our initiative, Soul Sessions. Soul Sessions is currently a group counseling offering but we would love to offer free 1:1 sessions in the future. 

I didn’t choose to be an advocate or an activist, the work chose me. 

Brianne Patrice, Executive Director of Sad Girls Club

4. What are conversations at Sad Girls Club like? How do you want the discussion surrounding mental health and wellness to change going forward?

We basically are calling things as we see them. We encourage people to have the conversations, to set the boundaries, to do whatever is necessary for them to regain control of their lives. Our parents grew up teaching us that “what happens at home stays at home” while also diminishing our feelings and our experiences; not fully understanding of how damaging that level of existing and conditioning informs the way we show up within the world. I think it’s unfair that our parents made us suffer in silence and that is not okay. And here at Sad Girls Club we stand behind that. We stand behind saying “That is NOT okay” and that “I no longer have to exist this way just because you told me I had to do so”. We are encouraging you to take your choices back, to take your freedom back. 

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5. You’ve spoken to us as well about Sad Moms Club, an offshoot of Sad Girls Club. How do you envision Sad Moms Club moving forward the conversation surrounding topics like postpartum depression, miscarriage, body image after giving birth, and maternal health?

Motherhood is hard and the conversations around motherhood still lean towards this male dominated, patriarchal gaze that women are to “tend to the house and kids” (read on the controversy that raged over Hillary Clinton’s comment in 1992 when asked why she was continuing her law career when her husband became governor of Arkansas). Women are out here running Fortune 500 companies, starting businesses, and creating movements all while breastfeeding and checking homework. There’s no reason why the conversations around motherhood shouldn’t speak to the totality of who a woman is. We have to stop telling women that when they become mothers they must become martyrs. No one EVER asks a man how he is going to have a family and hold down a job. No one ever tells a man that he must give up the parts of himself that make him human, that give him life. But we always tell women that she can’t both work and raise kids or that she must give up her dreams, whatever they may be. It’s time we stop that. Women are magical. And motherhood extends beyond a woman’s physical ability to bear and/or carry a child. Sad Moms Club is a celebration for the “other” in motherhood — it’s inclusive of all those who are mothers and mother adjacent (i.e. the aunties, the mimis and the nanas of the world).

Can you share more about motherhood and miscarriage, and the intersectionality of the impacts of miscarriage on one’s mental health and race?

I, personally, cannot speak to the impacts of miscarriage. Miscarriage is not my experience. I certainly empathize with the women who have experienced such trauma but would rather not speculate about what they may or may not have had to live through.

6. What does motherhood mean to you? 

Motherhood certainly is not what I imagined it to be. I think romanticizing motherhood comes with this ideal that a woman would be making cute lunches, attending field trips and yelling “that’s my baby” at sporting events. And while that maybe the reality for some, it certainly has not been mine. My motherhood was battling postpartum alone and being too afraid to say anything. It has been and still continues to be having a child with a rare and less than understood kidney disease that at any moment could claim her life. But motherhood is also me realizing the kind of mother I am choosing not to be. That means listening to her even if I don’t agree with what she’s saying. It’s allowing her room to self-express and share her opinions. It’s given space for her to be unapologetic in her decisions, her boundaries, and her choices and it’s allowing her to ask all the questions even if we, her village, don’t have all the answers. It’s leaning deep into her grandparents, her aunts and her uncles.. And it’s teaching her agency and autonomy over her body and her boundaries. And sadly it’s also making her aware of her blackness and the limitations the world will aim to impose on her because of.

7. What are your goals for Sad Girls Club in the coming years? What other projects are you excited about? 

Right now, for Sad Girls Club, our main focus is fundraising. Elyse and I are proud of the work that we are doing, I enjoy working alongside her. But we are also a small team behind such a huge brand and we need funding and more solid higher-level team members. As far as personal projects, I am really manifesting a literary agent and a PR manager for myself and twenty nine thirty. I, also, have a book that’s sitting on my computer just waiting for me to finish writing, lol. And I honestly just want to write more. A LOT more. And building off of twenty nine thirty, I am working on a membership platform called, The Altar, which I am uber excited about.

8. Can you give us a sneak peak into your new project Twenty Nine Thirty launching this fall? What niches of the mental health and wellness space do you hope to target with this new initiative?

Twenty Nine Thirty is my BABY. I have been ideating and slowly crafting her since the dawn of my 30th birthday. I am a huge advocate for black women fully understanding the power that lies within their sensual and sexual bodies. I, myself, was unaware of how something so “small” like masturbation would shift my understanding of what it meant to fully love and accept myself. There isn’t a lot of talk around survival mode in specific and what it means to cultivate joy and freedom post-trauma. Twenty Nine Thirty is a “come as you are” platform created for you to find rest, comfort and security while on your path to reconciliation and rejuvenation. 

9. You’ve spoken about your love of reflective journaling. Briefly, how can someone new to meditation and journaling begin this practice? How has this helped you in your mental health journey?

Just start lol. There’s no right or wrong way to meditate or journal. The point of having a practice is to make your own. To hold yourself accountable, however, I would suggest just putting something to the paper. Your entry doesn’t have to be long and elaborate. If you can’t, then write that. Literally write out the words “I just can’t today”. And then try again later or try again tomorrow. Journaling became my therapy, though. It allowed me to silence the noise so that I could find, listen and become familiar with the sound of my own voice. Writing in general is where I am my most authentic, my most comfortable and my most vulnerable. With this pen and this paper, I can say whatever and whenever; my words, my thoughts and my feelings remain between me and my journal pages. If I need to share then I will, if not then I don’t.  And when I need a reminder, my pages are full of them. A reflection of where I’ve been, where I’ve come from and where I have yet to go. 

10. Could you share your self-care plan? How should people shape their own self care plans?

My self-care plan right now is around fun and pleasure. I am walking into my 33rd year of life and I am trying to have all of the bomb-a** orgasms. My work is also apart of my self-care plan believe it or not. I love my work so much. Like SO MUCH and it will always affirm me. And my self-care plan is about exploration and not taking myself so seriously. I’m sure we all could loosen up, just a little. Your self care plan should be centered around your current needs. When crafting one, explore all of the things until you find one or a few things that make your senses come alive, that send riffs through your body and that makes your heart flutter. And when you’ve found it, give yourself more of it. And when it’s time for you to part ways, send it off with gratitude and move on to the next thing (whatever the next thing is).

11. Letters to My Younger Self: If you had any advice to give your younger self, what would it be? 

Whew, chile. I’d tell my younger self to leave men the f alone. I wasted so much time thinking that I had to find a man, get married and have his kids. I put myself through this unhealthy cycle of bad relationships to uphold this grooming we subject all young girls to. Only to get engaged, not once but twice, and end both of them knowing full blown well marriage ain’t never been something I subscribed to (I hate being tied down).  I’d tell her to not be ashamed of her sensitivities, and to not hide her free-spirited nature. I am not one to be caged or boxed in, and I spent so much time trying to cage and box myself in. I’d say to her, “spread those wings, baby; because you were born to fly”. I’d also tell her to love is freedom, never controlling or constricting; but, that’s another conversation for another day.

Complement this read with the experience of sexual trauma and family stigma and mental health by artist and advocate Freakquencee, the mental health consequences of race and its social determinants, as disclosed by mental health startup founder and public health leader Kevin Dedner, how it would be shocking if the Black community was not experiencing mental health struggles in today’s context by founder of BARE Mental Health & Wellness, professor and clinical psychologist, Jessica Lopresti, and a conversation on how to provide culturally sensitive support and approach finding the right therapy and professional support with Dr. Tony Rufus Spann, Chief Clinical Officer of Hurdle. 

Interview by Susan Yoomin Im and Theophila Lee

Edited by Susan Yoomin Im

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