See the little monsters fighting mental health stigma. They're kinda cute too.

Here's a mysterious-looking critter. Its name is Anxiety.

It looks like some sort of pest that'd hide out in the corners of your house and pop out whenever it wanted, causing you to feel a bit uneasy. You know, a little bit how anxiety can work in real life.


Just wait until you meet Depression.

It's "like a slump in fabric form," says creator Emily Monaghan.

Indeed, it is.

These critters are part of The Real Monsters project, and they're getting people to talk about mental health. Because, let's be real, it's hard to talk about.

Based on the 2013 digital series by Toby Allen, The Real Monsters is exploring mental health conditions through unique and thoughtful character designs — both digitally and, now, thanks to Monaghan, in soft, huggable form.

It poses an interesting question: What if mental health conditions were like visible monsters that hung around humans every day?

It'd probably make mental health easier to talk about.

Through characters, conditions like avoidant personality disorder...

...can now be more approachable and comfortable to talk about.


And that's exactly what Toby and Emily hope to achieve by tackling the stigma surrounding mental health.

Emily's launched a Kickstarter to help bring the critters to people all over the place. They're a great conversation starter.

"Whenever I showed the prototypes to friends, family or students, it would always prompt people to talk about their own experiences with mental illness - their own, or members of their family," she writes.

Imagine how productive the plush toys would be in a classroom setting or to help family members better understand a loved one's mental health condition.

So far there are four monsters available: Anxiety, Depression, Avoidant Personality Disorder, and Borderline Personality Disorder. But Toby has designed about 20 monsters, including Bipolar, Selective Mutism, PTSD, and more. You can help decide the next round of plush toys to be created through the Kickstarter page.

"I hope that together, we can play a small part in reducing the stigma, by making invisible conditions a bit more visible."

And huggable, too. The Real Monsters are unique, smart, and starting very important conversations. A big step in the right direction!

Americans woke up this morning to the news that the FDA and the CDC have recommended a pause on the Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine out of "an abundance of caution" while they review 6 incidences of rare blood clotting issues out of the 6.8 million J & J vaccines administered in the U.S.

Let's be super clear about the numbers here. Six out of 6.8 million. That means, of the people who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine since its February 27th emergency use authorization, 0.000088% of recipients have reported encountering this rare blood clotting issue. Literally less than one in a million.

On the flip side, some people are trying to compare these rare clots with the increased risk of blood clots in pregnancy and for those taking birth control pills, but this particular combination of clots and low platelets can't be treated the way clots normally are treated, which the CDC and FDA say is part of the reason for the pause—to alert doctors to treat any of these rare issues properly.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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