Charlie Brown: A Cartoon Kid With Mental Health Problems

An article in Time on the occasion of the death of Charles M. Schulz, creator of Charlie Brown and his gang, notes that he’d originated something very different for comic strips of his era—the “Peanuts” kids he drew actually talked about having real problems.

On October 2, 1950, at the height of the American postwar celebration — an era when being unhappy was an antisocial rather than a personal emotion — a 27-year-old Minnesota cartoonist named Charles M. Schulz introduced to the funny papers a group of children who told one another the truth:

‘I have deep feelings of depression,’ a round-faced kid named Charlie Brown said to an imperious girl named Lucy in an early strip. ‘What can I do about it?’

‘Snap out if it,’ advised Lucy.

As a shrink, Lucy was ineffective. Charlie Brown continued to be plagued not only with depression but with other types of angst as well. Probably at least in part because, like Charlie Brown, Schulz himself had similar issues. States David Michaelis in the Time piece, “Melancholy would dog him all his life, as would feelings of worthlessness, panic, high anxiety and frustration.”

And yet Schulz was—and still is—unbelievably successful in reaching a devoted legion of fans of his work.

Long-time fan Stuart JeffriesThe Guardian, related his childhood appreciation of Charlie Brown’s neuroses: “In four frames [Charles Schulz] told truths that every child knows but too often go unrecognised when adults write for kids: namely, that life is difficult, one’s shortcomings feel insuperable and that, when fate has laid you low, it comes along to kick you again in the proverbials.”

Jeffries goes on to say, “For adults, the only certainties in life were death and taxes. For kids like me and Charlie Brown there was a third one – our constant companion is, and will always be, worry. ‘Sometimes you lie in bed and you don’t have a single thing to worry about,’ Charlie Brown reflected once. ‘That always worries me.’”

CHARLIE BROWN SPEAKS: Some Pertinent Quotes

This is my depressed stance. When you’re depressed, it makes a lot of difference how you stand. The worst thing you can do is straighten up and hold your head high because then you’ll start to feel better. If you’re going to get any joy out of being depressed, you’ve got to stand like this.

I’ve developed a new philosophy… I only dread one day at a time.

Sometimes I lie awake at night, and ask, ‘Where have I gone wrong?’ Then a voice says to me, ‘This is going to take more than one night.’

That’s the secret to life… replace one worry with another….

It always looks darkest just before it gets totally black.

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