When you think of dessert, you usually think of something delicious, decadent, and joy-producing, right? It is, after all, a literal treat.
But that’s not what these bakers have in mind. Their cakes, cookies, and other desserts are actually pretty sad and depressed. But that’s what makes them amazing.
These “sad” but delicious desserts were all created as part of an effort to raise money and awareness about depression and mental health disorders.
The organization is called The Depressed Cake Shop, and the folks behind it want to make mental health disorders the topic of conversation, one decadent dessert at a time.
Mental health challenges are quite common, but the stigma surrounding them and our failure as a society to address them in the same manner we address physical diseases makes it hard for many people to get help.
According to NAMI, “1 in 5 adults experiences a mental health condition every year. 1 in 20 lives with a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. In addition to the person directly experiencing by a mental illness, family, friends and communities are also affected.”
I spoke with Valerie Van Galder, one of the people who helps keep the organization going, to learn more.
She says it began in 2012 when a woman named Emma Thomas, who lives in the United Kingdom, wanted to do her part to fundraise and create awareness for people who deal with mental health disorders.
Thomas came up with the idea of a “pop-up” cake shop a local event where bakers donate gray cakes and other treats to be sold for mental health awareness, with all proceeds going to a mental-health-related charity of the organizer’s choosing.
It was supposed to be a one-time thing, but it went so well that others picked up on the idea. And a sort of movement grew from it.
Now, the Depressed Cake Shop community assists people in organizing pop-up shops all over the world.
The only requirement for the baked goods is that they have an element of gray “to signify the gray cloud that can descend over a beautiful world when someone is struggling with mental health issues.” They can also have a pop of color to signify hope, like this beautiful, Pinterest-worthy cake:
The people who participate in the Depressed Cake Shop events often have experience with mental health disorders, either personally or through relationships with family members or friends they care about.
“I got very inspired by it because my father was bipolar. In 2009, I had to leave my job because my dad was too sick. I couldn’t do both” care for him and work, Valerie told me.
She says it’s difficult for people with mental health disorders or their caregivers to access quality services. Plus, the stigma is a barrier to treatment for many.
“We’re not a charity,” Valerie said. “We’re a social awareness program to create conversation and help destigmatize mental illnesses.”
“It’s not something people will talk about freely,” she added. “We hope we can help people seek help. The most challenging thing about it is that the disease itself tells you you’ll never get better.”
So far, The Depressed Cake has hosted 30 pop-up shops and has helped raise over $70,000 for mental health organizations, and they’re still going strong.
There’s a pop-up shop happening in Orange County, California, on Aug. 15 with all proceeds going to the Mental Health Association of Orange County.
The best part? Doing good feels good.
“It’s incredible. It’s been a very healing thing for me,” Valerie said. “It’s created a community of friends, a network of support I never could have imagined.”
“It’s the reason that people should want to give back and find something they’re passionate about,” she concluded. “It gives you so many gifts not just to the people you’re trying to help. A life of purpose is a nice way to live. “