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Depressed Cake Shops Destigmatize Mental Health Issues

By: Luis Gay

Edited by: Juliana Zhu, Esq.

Cake is usually present during the most joyous days of our lives such as birthdays, weddings, and parties. This is why Depressed Cake Shops have been so successful in their mission to raise money and awareness for mental health issues worldwide. Valerie Van Galder, a mental health advocate who has been with the project since 2013, says that the project starts conversation. Cake is usually associated with celebration, but is also associated with depression.

The Depressed Cake Shops originally started as a pro and semi-pro bake sale in the U.K. by Emma Thomas, a creative director and public relations specialist. She sold gray cakes with a pop of color to symbolize hope. The idea became such a big hit that it spread to countries such as Australia, India, Scotland and cities in the U.S. including San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles, Houston, and Atlanta, where they each host their own shop.

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Baked goods of all kinds are welcome at the cake shops, whether it is from professionals, home bakers, or hobbyists. Van Galder, former president of marketing for Sony pictures, said that people bring in creations such as gray macaroons, “misfortune cookies, and anxious Oreos.” However, she explained that all the creations must have an element of gray to represent the gray cloud that can descend over a beautiful world when someone is suffering from mental health issues.

For Van Galder, the fight to raise awareness of mental health is a personal one after caring for her father with bipolar disorder in his late life. She said her mother never told her that he had the disorder when she was younger because there was there was so much stigma. She expressed it must have been very isolating for her father to hide it for so long. Van Galder had to resign her job to take care of him. She now consults movies such as “12 Years a Slave.”

One in four people will suffer from mental health issues at some point in their life. This is a strong statement that has driven Van Galder and Depressed Cake Shops to educate the public about the early signs of depression. Baking is a positive experience that has proved to be very therapeutic. As Van Galder proclaims, the simple act of measuring ingredients and mixing dough quiets your mind.

To donate baked goods or find out how you can get involved, send a note to

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Luis Gay is a sophomore attending the University of San Francisco, pursuing a Biology degree and Biochemistry Minor. He is a Social Media Assistant at Cancer InCytes Magazine.



Saelinger, Tracy. 21Aug2015. “'Depressed Cake Shops' eat away at the stigma of mental health issues”. Today. [Accessed 21 Aug 2015]

Photo Credit:

All these pictures of baked goods can be found at


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