Children typically grow up fearing the monsters under their beds, but what about the ones looming inside their heads? While the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) reports that over 20 percent of children have struggled with mental health issues at some point, such issues among this population have just recently become part of the conversation. Toby Allen, an artist based out of the United Kingdom, has added to this dialogue by developing a 16-piece series of artwork depicting mental health disorders as scary monsters, making the conditions relatable to all ages.
The “Real Monsters” series was inspired by Allen’s personal struggles with anxiety. As he explains, “I found that drawing my worries and fears as little monsters would help me think about them differently and make my anxiety feel more manageable. I imagined that my anxiety could be overcome by giving it a physical form, giving it a visible weakness that I could learn to exploit.” Through Allen’s personification of highly stigmatized mental health issues, he is able to shed light on the issue from the perspective of each disorder. For example, the obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) monster is described as using “fear to control its victims.” Likewise, the description accompanying the anxiety monster states that it is “small enough to sit on its victim’s shoulder and whisper things in to their unconscious, eliciting fearful thoughts and irrational worries.”
While doing copious amounts of research on each mental health disorder depicted, Allen met with people touched by each condition and looked at case studies to ensure the pieces would be relatable to those currently struggling with the respective mental health issues. Allen notes, “I want to make people aware of how damaging these illnesses are and how much of a burden they can be to those who suffer from them.” He also hopes the artwork in the series, which he first began releasing in 2013, will encourage these individuals to seek help. Directly addressing this in the anorexia nervosa piece, the description next to this monster includes, “In order to defeat Anorexia Nervosa, its existence must be acknowledged, only then can its powers be rendered useless.”
If you or a loved one is struggling with a mental health disorder, it can be scary and overwhelming. Help is available if you are willing to accept it. Sovereign Health Group specializes in treating individuals struggling with mental health disorders, substance abuse issues and dual diagnosis. Call today to speak with a professional about the treatment options that are right for you.
Written by Courtney Howard, Sovereign Health Group writer