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Mental disorders are real and happen to more people than you think — approximately 1 in 5 adults in the United States — experience mental illness in a given year. These disorders are characterized by abnormalities in thinking, feelings, or behaviors. Due to the many shapes mental illnesses tend to take on, it can be hard to pinpoint how to collectively treat these disorders with one method. Many people face concern over having mental health symptoms, but it becomes an illness when they begin to affect one’s ability to function. There are different disorders under the umbrella of mental illness — the most common ones are: anxiety, mood, psychotic, eating, personality, obsessive-compulsive, posttraumatic, and dissociative. Despite so many people living with mental illnesses, many do not disclose that they have a mental health issue due to negative reactions and stigma associated with many of them.

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U.K.-based illustrator, Toby Allen, sheds light on these conditions by depicting them as monsters in his work in an effort to raise mental health awareness. Allen told Mashable, "The idea for the project came from dealing with my own anxiety. 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 from, giving it a visible weakness that I could learn to exploit." His Real Monsters series gives a face to most of these readily unrecognizable disorders, allowing people to connect with something they might feel they’re facing alone.

Even though mental illnesses affects many in the U.S., it also impacts people across the world — according to the World Health Organization, 450 million people worldwide have a mental illness. The U.K. launched Time To Change as a program to challenge mental health stigma and discrimination. Within their research, an astounding 9 out of 10 people with health problems reported the negative impact of shame and discrimination in their lives. Due to the complex nature of these conditions, people find it hard to talk about what they’re going through, while others find it hard to empathize and are quick to dismiss the seriousness of the topic.

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Thankfully, there are a group of empowering women in the media who are using their following to speak out about their own mental issues, catapulting the dialogue that needs to be had. Demi Lovato is a prime example of a young Latina being open about her bipolar disorder after going through the process of rehab. Lovato even started a campaign called Be Vocal: Stand Up for Mental Health in an effort to encourage people to have a conversation. Lena Dunham is also one to not shy away from speaking up about her depression and anxiety. Another powerhouse actress, Jennifer Lawrence, chose to speak up during her Oscars acceptance speech for Silver Linings Playbook where she said, 

“It's just so bizarre how in this world if you have asthma, you take asthma medication. If you have diabetes, you take diabetes medication. But as soon as you have to take medicine for your mind, it's such a stigma behind it." 
Even the mastermind behind the iconic Harry Potter books, J.K. Rowling, spoke out about suffering from severe depression and contemplating suicide when she was in her 20s.

Even though more people are opening up about their mental health these day, it is still an uphill battle. If you think you might be dealing with a mental health illness, you can seek help. Self-care is possible and shouldn’t be something to be ashamed about — ever.