May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and TITLE Boxing Club and BoxUnion showcased their support through an event on May 22 called “Knockout the Stigma,” which aimed to start a transparent dialogue around mental illness.
The brand hosted both in-person and digital Knockout Stigma classes the entire day, and each class kicked off with trainers who volunteered to share their personal struggles with depression, PTSD or anxiety.
Here, Felicia Alexander, the chief revenue officer and co-founder of BoxUnion Holdings — the parent company of TITLE Boxing Club and BoxUnion — shared the inspiration behind the event, why it’s important to remove the stigma surrounding mental illness, and why it’s important for clubs to stand behind causes they’re passionate about.
What inspired the Knockout Stigma campaign?
FA: The inspiration was really a combination of things, including my own personal experience with mental illness, along with those of trainers, members and other executives of TITLE Boxing Club/BoxUnion. I was diagnosed with depression as a young adult, but never felt comfortable coming forward until two years ago. Holding back and hiding is not healthy. In 2019, I came forward by sharing a photo of my prescribed medication on Instagram — I felt an incredible sense of freedom. I wanted others to share in that relief as well.
The idea of Knockout Stigma Day was to continue this impactful dialogue on a national scale. For every boxer that took class on May 22nd at TITLE Boxing Club or BoxUnion, we will be donating $1 to Bring Change to Mind. Bring Change to Mind’s mission surrounds erasing the stigma and starting the conversation about mental health, so there was a perfect alignment there. We are also encouraging our global community to share their story – we have seen trainers, boxers and even C-team members share their experience with depression, bipolar disorder and PTSD. The encouragement and response have been nothing short of incredible.
The other side of the inspiration for the campaign comes from the connection between boxing and mental health. Boxing is a form of stress relief that literally causes your focus to shift onto the bag in front of you. The release of endorphins has a physical impact on relieving any tension in your muscles, so boxing becomes the perfect way to knockout stress. In fact, for many of our members, their first visit to the club to box was after a drastic life event or change like a breakup or job loss. Boxing became a form of therapy for them. You often hear the phrase “leave your problems at the door” – we invite our boxers to bring their problems into class and work through them.
CS: What would you like other gym owners to know about the stigma surrounding mental illness, and why they should support mental illness discussions/awareness in their communities?
FA: I’d like them to know they likely have members, trainers and team members who are struggling with mental illness and they may never know. This is not something to be pushed under the rug. Starting the conversation in their communities is essential for making an impact on a larger scale — you never know who is suffering. I seemed to have the perfect life on the outside at the time when my life was darkest, so never assume it is not something affecting those closest to you. My goal is to ultimately see mental illness spoken about in the same way we talk about needing glasses.
CS: Why should other clubs find a cause to stand behind that fits their values/team best?
FA: What makes an organization and its support for a given cause stand out is how authentic the connection between the two are. Authenticity occurs when a brand leans into a cause that aligns with its core values and is something the entire team can get behind. The TITLE Boxing Club/BoxUnion team has been supportive of mental health since inception. Now more than ever, consumers and employees are looking at brands to demonstrate a social conscious and be clear and loud with their beliefs.
There are so many meaningful causes out there that it can be overwhelming at times. Our goal was to really hone in on one and try to make the biggest impact possible.