Let’s be honest: mental illness is not a conversation topic people want to address. If someone gets cancer, undergoes a heart transplant, or falls sick with the flu, people see it, understand it, emphasize with it, and are compassionate. Yet when someone has a mental illness, people don’t “get it.”
Illustrator Toby Allen wishes to change that. From anxiety to bipolar disorder, Allen puts a face to these illnesses and shows the world just how tangible—and haunting—they can be.
Allen’s “Real Monsters” series is a collection of illustrations that anthropomorphize mental illnesses like depression, social anxiety disorder, and schizophrenia. He hopes his art will raise awareness to those who are unfamiliar with mental illness, and offer some relief and encouragement to those who are suffering.
“The project originated from imagining my own anxieties as monsters and finding it to be a cathartic and healing process to draw them,” Allen told The Huffington Post. “It made them feel weaker and I was able to look at my own anxiety in a comical way.”
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“I hope to draw attention to mental illnesses that often get ignored or aren’t taken as seriously as they should.”
“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.”
“The project highlights conditions that some people may have never even heard of, so the work aims to raise awareness for these.”
“Yes, I have Anxiety. It affects me every day of my life and can be a real burden but I have learnt how to keep it mostly at bay.”
“As for the other mental illnesses in the series, I either know someone who is personally effected by the illness or am very familiar with it because it is something that I find interesting to research.”
“I research each illness extensively to be able to create a design that works for most people. I try to research real life case studies and incorporate people’s first hand experience into each design…I have a list of illnesses that I would like to tackle.”