We all feel like a sad ghost sometimes. This comic series captures that perfectly.

Lize Meddings knows what it’s like to deal with mental health issues in your 20s.

After graduating university, Lize — a Bristol, U.K. artist — said she felt sad, lost, and adrift. But she used those feelings to draw the first comic of what would be The Sad Ghost Club.

“[They] were about being in this 'sad ghost club' and how it felt to be a part of it,” Lize wrote in an email.


The Sad Ghost Club. All images via Lize Meddings, used with permission.

Eventually, that one comic turned into a series of comics about sadness.

Lize's first comic, published in March 2014, was a wordless comic about feeling left out. It had a resounding response on the internet.  

Social media pages were made for The Sad Ghost Club, and it took off from there.

She followed that up with the “Guide to Not Being Sad,” about which she told us, “I tried hard to make sure none of the rules were preachy, none of them were offering some trick to 'not be sad any more' and it was all things most people would be able to achieve no matter their circumstance.”

Lize met with her future business partner Laura Cox and they bonded over their shared struggles with mental illness.

“When me and Laura met to discuss her joining me, we got onto me struggling with trichotillomania and her struggling with dermatillomania (hair pulling and skin scratching, to sum it up) and being able to talk about it openly, with someone who understood, was so positive,” Lize told us. “Suddenly the shame was gone, it was this thing that we both did, and that was ok.”

Laura reaffirmed The Sad Ghost Club's mission and gave it new life and direction. For the two, it became a sort of open letter to their younger selves.

After Laura joined The Sad Ghost Club team in 2015, she suggested they meet with local charity Off the Record.

The Bristol-based charity offers free mental health services to people aged 11-25, and Laura wanted to contribute to their cause.

“They were so supportive of what we were doing and encouraged us to continue,” Lize said. And it gave them motivation for the new direction of the club. Most recently, Lize and Laura started a "Sketchbook Club" with Off the Record, an event for teens to be creative in a positive environment.

Not all of the Sad Ghost comics have happy endings, and some don’t even have words.

But these comics have built a shame-free community online, and that's super important. The artists even offer workshops in the Bristol area, as well as online workshops for their international fans. They have continued to publish comics online and sell comic zines through their site too.

Art therapy like these comics has been proven to help people with mental health issues.

And according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, about 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experiences issues with mental health in a given year.

“Some days are ok, some are awful, and I like to think we're honest about it. All the comics are based on things we've felt and experienced, so sometimes it doesn't end on a light note, and hey, that's ok,” Lize wrote.

These creative, funny, and thoughtful comics aren't just patronizing self-help listicles either.

They're a real way of sharing, learning, and connecting with others about mental health.

Lize said she thinks part of the appeal of the club is that, “maybe the guide to not being sad doesn't make you any less sad, but you've got something to hold, and read, and look at, and be reminded that it is not just you.”

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Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

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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