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.
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.”