Normalizing Mental Illness, One Cartoon Character at a Time
One of the first statements I often hear is that, "I do not need counseling; nothing is wrong with me!" While this is likely true, and I truly believe that counseling is not for “fixing” a person, but instead providing a safe place to work through life’s difficulties, I also promote normalizing mental illness. 1 out of 4 adults suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year. That is a large number, yet many are still ashamed or embarrassed when they need help. This is why I love Winnie-the-Pooh because all the characters normalize various mental illness. Let’s begin with my very favorite, Tigger!
Tigger is a lovable and energetic Tiger. You can’t help but laugh when you hear his “hoo hoo hoo,” as he bounces off on his tail! However, many don’t realize that Tigger clearly presents with AD/HD symptoms. He is unable to regulate his activity level and is constantly responding impulsively!
Winnie-the-Pooh is the most famous character of the Winnie-the-Pooh bunch. Despite his popularity, Winnie likely has a variety of mental disorders! Winnie likely has an eating disorder, as he frequently binge eats honey. Winnie frequently says, “think, think, think!” as he tries to determine a solution. He is forgetful and always requires help from others. Winnie likely has an intellectual disability and/or learning disability! Lastly, Winnie has obsessions with honey and exhibits repetitive counting- likely symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).
Piglet is always anxious and worried. Piglet shows symptoms of a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).
Owl is extremely intelligent and always able to help others with a problem. However, he often has difficulty reading and writing, which are clear signs of dyslexia!
Kanga Roo presents as having an anxiety disorder. Specifically, Kanga presents with social anxiety disorder (SAD) as evidenced by her over-protectiveness of her son.
Rabbit is frequently portrayed as having difficulty relaxing and a strong desire to be organized. Rabbit shows many symptoms of OCD.
Poor Eeyore and his missing tail! Eeyore often has a negative outlook of his life, future and others! These are classic symptoms of persistent depressive disorder.
Christopher Robin is the lovable little boy and leader of the bunch! However, due to his failure to recognize that all his friends are merely stuffed animals, as well as his auditory hallucinations, he presents with classic symptoms of schizophrenia.
Even though these are merely cute cartoon characters, Winnie-the-Pooh is a great reminder to normalize mental illness. All the characters are loved and supported by each other, no matter the difficulty they present with. It is a great reminder that it is okay to reach out for help during the many trials and difficulties in life.
Written by: Amy Rollo, M.A., LSSP, LPC-S
Amy Rollo is a Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor and owner of Heights Family Counseling. Amy has been practicing for fifteen years. She has doctoral level training in the areas of child and adolescent counseling, marriage and family therapy, and adult counseling. Amy Rollo provides counseling and evaluation services in the Houston Heights and surrounding areas. Amy’s goal in counseling is to journey with her clients in order to foster positive changes and growth in their lives. Read more about Amy's counseling style by visiting www.heightsfamilycounseling.com