Charlie Brown Depression (A little boy and big problems?)

In this article, we will talk about Charlie Brown’s depression. We will get to know more about who is Charlie Brown, why did people think he was in depression. We will get to know more about childhood depression and ways to help children deal with the same.  

Was Charlie Brown depressed?

Yes. Based on his behavior and dialogues, most often people would conclude that he is just a sad, aloof, shy little boy. But, Charlie Brown was more than an unhappy child. He was not a child who was being unhappy as a tantrum response to not getting what he want. He was unhappy with his life, even as a young child. He felt let down by his circumstances, his luck, his unkind social groups, and his inability to fit into the mold of his society. 

His favourite dialogue to use often was “Good Grief!”  

Who is Charlie Brown?

Charlie Brown was a central character from the comic strip, that had a long run in Sunday newspapers from 1950-2000, called Peanuts. A very well-received comic strip during its time, it covered the topic of mental health in its own sympathetic way. Peanuts was the brainchild of Charles M. Schulz and his beloved character from the entire strip was Charlie Brown. And, he is the only character in Peanuts to have been a part of the comic strip throughout its 50-year run. 

Based on this comic strip there were cartoon shows and movies made too where Charlie Brown was given prime importance. With reference to how art and media have been creating awareness about mental health issues, one such example in today’s times are anime shows.

Charlie Brown was always referred to by his full name. He was a little boy, with one strand of curly hair on his head, always wearing his zigzag patterned yellow shirt and black trousers.

Schulz says Charlie Brown is the depiction of an average person who is more accustomed to losing than winning. As a result, he suffers frequently, is nervous, and has self-esteem issues.

But he was not always sad and withdrawn. He has had happy moments and joyous victories too. He had unusual moments of being self-assertive which is very different from his usual state of being. He has mixed moods of being pessimistic on some days and optimistic on others. He does not like to go out much because he feels he might ruin the day of others. He was very loving towards his family and friends.    

The connection between Charles and Charlie- the creator and his creation  

Charlie, the “lovable loser”, seeks much inspiration from Charles, the creator’s, own childhood. He recalls himself as being a shy and withdrawn child. In an interview he gave in 1997, Schulz mentioned: “I suppose there’s a melancholy feeling in a lot of cartoonists, because cartooning, like all other humor, comes from bad things happening.” 

Above all this, the other characters were also inspired by the creator’s friends and family members. Both Charlie Brown’s and Schulz’s fathers were barbers and their mothers were both housewives. Charlie Brown’s friends, such as Linus and Shermy, were named after good friends of Schulz, and Peppermint Patty was inspired by Patricia Swanson, one of Schulz’s cousins on his mother’s side. Schulz devised the character’s name when he saw peppermint candies in his house. Even Charlie Brown’s unrequited love for the Little Red-Haired Girl was inspired by Schulz’s own love for Donna Mae Johnson, an Art Instruction Inc. accountant; When Schulz finally proposed to her in June 1950, shortly after he’d made his first contract with his syndicate, she turned him down and married another man.

Charlie Brown’s personality characteristics 

Charlie Brown is a shy, meek, kind, innocent, gentle-hearted character with many anxieties. Charlie Brown cares very deeply for his family and friends, even if he was maltreated or teased by them. He is often victimized and abused by the other characters, usually getting blamed when something goes wrong even though he is obviously not the one at fault. 

He is actually intelligent and insightful, one can even say he has above-average vocabulary and is philosophical and deep-thinking; this has often led him to talk to himself about his problems, what others may be saying about him, and philosophy in general.

He has used phrases that might make wonder if his existential crisis is actually a mental health concern. Some such dialogues are, “The secret to life, is to replace one worry with another.” and

“I have a new philosophy, I only dread one day at a time.” “Sometimes I lie awake at night, and I ask, ‘Where have I gone wrong’. Then a voice says to me, ‘This is going to take more than one night.” “I think I’m afraid of being happy because whenever I get too happy something bad always happens.” 

Can children have depression?

Yes. If you thought that Charlie Brown’s character was an unrealistic version of what a child could go through, you are mistaken. In fact, childhood depression is at an all-time high. 

How to identify depression in children?

While young children may find it difficult to put their feelings into clear words, there are some signs that caregivers can keep a check on to notice if the child is in depression. 

A fleeting sense of sadness, boredom, or throwing tantrums is very different than depression. For it to be considered depression, the child must show symptoms, persistently, for at least two weeks. There could be a variety and range of symptoms, so it is important to be vigilant.  

According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, common signs of depression in children and teens last longer than two weeks and include: 

  • Irritability and/or anger
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Feeling or appearing depressed, sad, tearful
  • Fatigue or perceived lack of energy 
  • Feeling guilty or ashamed  
  • Having more trouble concentrating
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in previously enjoyed activities
  • Psychomotor slowing or agitation
  • Increased acting out behaviours 
  • Recurrent thoughts of suicide and/or death or feeling like a misfit causing an urge to run away 
  • Sleep disturbance: Insomnia or hypersomnia nearly every day
  • Frequent complaints of body aches, headaches, stomach aches, etc

Causes of childhood depression

While stressful life events like shifting place of residence, tense home environments, negligent parents, fighting parents, parents’ divorce, could be major contributing factors,  it’s only a small piece of the puzzle. Many other factors, including genetics, also play a role in its development. 

There are a number of different factors that can contribute to childhood depression including:

  • Brain chemistry: Imbalances in certain neurotransmitters and hormones may play a role in how the brain works, which can affect moods and emotions and increase the risk of experiencing depression.
  • Environmental factors: A stressful, chaotic, or unstable home environment can also make children more likely to experience depression. Rejection and bullying at school may also be contributing factors.
  • Family history: Children with family members who also have mood disorders such as depression are at a greater risk for also experiencing symptoms of depressive disorders.
  • Stress or trauma: Sudden changes such as moving or divorce, or traumatic events such as abuse or assault can also contribute to feelings of depression.

What can you do if you know a child who has depression like Charlie Brown?

Most mental health care workers will first ask the parent to keep vigil over the child’s symptoms. If their symptoms persist after 6 to 8 weeks of support, they will be referred for psychotherapy. If your child is initially diagnosed with moderate to severe depression, their doctor will likely skip this step and start treatment immediately. 

Treatment usually is a mixed method of using pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy. The kind of treatment recommended for your child will depend on the nature and severity of their depression. 

The side effects of antidepressant medications on growing children has been much debated upon. People are apprehensive of children feeling drugged or eventually becoming addicted to the drugs. Doctors take these concerns seriously, and talk to patients and their families about what to expect. The doctors are well aware of the consequences and best to provide appropriate guidance about dosage, frequency and how to wean out of the medication. It is better to consult, both, a pediatrician and a psychiatrist. 

Psychotherapy approaches can involve approaches like Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, Interpersonal Therapy, Mindfulness based Therapy.

There are different approaches to therapy that can be enjoyable for children and wouldn’t feel therapy is some form of class, punishment or forceful space.  

Play therapy 

A trained therapist can use playtime to observe and gain insights into a child’s problems. The therapist can then help the child explore emotions and deal with unresolved trauma. And, because the therapeutic goals are intertwined with play and fun the child doesn’t feel like they are being interrogated or put in a spot to answer. In the context of the play, the child feels comfortable sharing their struggles with the therapist.  

Arts Based Therapy

Arts Based Therapy uses visual and performing arts in healing. Much like play therapy, art serves as a mode for catharsis, self-expression, self-reflection, and coping for children and adults alike. A trained arts based therapist uses art therapeutically to help the child make sense of their world within and outside. It can also encourage mindful actions and behavior on the child’s part. 

Conclusion

In this article, we talked about Charlie Brown’s depression. We got to know more about who is Charlie Brown, why did people think he was in depression. We learnt more about childhood depression and ways to help children deal with the same.  

Frequently Asked Questions: Charlie Brown Depression

What is Charlie Brown’s age?

Though it is not clearly stated anywhere much, in an earlier originally published comic it was once mentioned that Charlie is four years old. 

Is there an age limit for depression?

No, depression knows no age limit. 

How did Charlie Brown die?

The creator of Charlie Brown, in December 1999, revealed he has been diagnosed with colon cancer. Schulz then announced he would retire. On February 12, 2000, the 77-year-old cartoonist died at his home in Santa Rosa, California, the day before his last Sunday Peanuts strip appeared in newspapers.

What are the other characters from Peanuts?

Apart from Charlie Brown, the main characters were Sally Brown, Marcie, Peppermint Patty, Schroeder, Snoopy, Spike, Linus van Pelt, Lucy van Pelt, Woodstock. Other supporting characters were Eudora, Franklin, Frieda, Violet Gray, Lydia, Patty, Rerun van Pelt, “Pig-Pen”, Shermy. There are many other minor characters, unseen characters and objects or imaginary things that had names in the comicstrip, books and the shows. Some characters appeared in the movie but were never seen in the comic strip. 

Does Charlie Brown have a girlfriend?

Although it wasn’t clearly mentioned anywhere, fans believe that Peggy Jean, a minor female character in the Peanuts comic strip, was the girlfriend of Charlie Brown for many years in the 1990s.

References 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlie_Brown

https://peanuts.fandom.com/wiki/Charlie_Brown

 

Divya is currently a Clinical Psychology Trainee in a Master of Philosophy program and holds a Master’s in clinical psychology. She has a special interest in Personality studies and disorders, having researched the subject before, and Neuropsychology; with an additional interest being Mood disorders. She likes to write about Psychiatric issues, having worked in multiple specialty setups during her time as a clinical psychology student, and in her free time she likes to cook and read.