Mental Health Monsters Illustrate Serious Problems
English illustrator Toby Allen recently released the second of a three-part set of monsters, each inspired by a different mental health disorder. The series is called Real Monsters, a reference to the fact that those diagnosed with these conditions suffer from very real problems. Allen suffers from anxiety issues, and decided to illustrate his worries as monsters. He shared the images online, and the response was so positive that he moved on to other mental conditions, from the common (anxiety, depression) to the very specific (misophonia, selective mutism).
The monsters vary in size and composition. Schizophrenia is a stinky reptile, while the Borderline Personality monster is made almost entirely of invisible ice, with only a maple leaf tail giving its location away. Anxiety wears a skull as a mask, while Dissociative Identity is a shape-shifting creature. Monsters have their own history. “The post traumatic stress monsters were once part of a race of belevolent guardians who became corrupted by a painful and unknown malady,” for example. They also have their own tactics. “The main powers of the Anorexia Nervosa monster are control and secrecy which cause its victims to try and hide their extreme habits.”
Allen researches each disorder, reading individual case studies, and then tries to find universal qualities that run through their stories. The artist has gotten a lot of positive feedback from those who suffer from the conditions he’s illustrated.
Allen, whose work also includes children’s book illustration, has also teamed up with the artist Emily Monaghan for a plush version of the series. They haven’t been released to the public yet, but Monaghan has shared some images on her Tumblr.