By now, most people have heard the theory that each of the Winnie the Pooh characters represents a different mental illness. While I think that a lot of these theories are a bit of a stretch, there is one thing that I can stand by: Eeyore most likely has a depressive disorder.
Let's take a look at the facts: Eeyore was often sad, he didn't look on the bright side often, usually moved pretty slowly, and his dialogue in the book is almost always written, "said Eeyore, gloomily." For many people, being diagnosed with depression sounds almost as bad as a death sentence. Because honestly, a lot of people in today's society still view people with depression as broken or sick and that they need medication or to talk to someone. And maybe Eeyore did need all of those things. He could have very well benefited from medication or a counselor. But there was one thing that Eeyore had that many real people who suffer from depression don't: The Hundred Acre Wood Gang.
What these books and the movies did really well was create a set of characters that understood how to cope with a depressive friend. Winnie the Pooh and the gang never once made fun of Eeyore for being sad. They never wrote him off as being crazy. In fact, they checked in on him. They invited him on every adventure even though they knew that he would probably say no or, if he did come, he would be a little grumpy. Eeyore had the best friends in the world! They understood that he was the way he was and that was nothing to be ashamed of. They took care of him even when it was inconvenient or difficult.
Now some people might say that it's inappropriate to have a children's cartoon with a character that has a mental illness. They think that this creates a role model for children that allows them to be less than normal. I have to respectfully disagree. I think it was revolutionary for A.A. Milne to write a character like Eeyore in the 1920s. Winnie the Pooh was able to inadvertently teach children about emotions, how to express them, and how to help friends with them. And of course Eeyore is a role model! For a child who is sad often, it can be such a comfort to know that Eeyore is struggling too and that despite being sad, he still has friends. We can all learn a little bit from the Hundred Acre Wood about how to help our friends struggling with sadness. It actually reminds me of a more recent cast of characters. Look familiar?
Inside Out and Winnie the Pooh are incredibly important for children and adults alike. They remind us that sadness is ok sometimes and even necessary. Pooh and his friends also can help many people learn how to interact normally with someone struggling with mental illness. If you ever find yourself feeling like you can't talk to your friend struggling with depression or you don't know what to do to help, I strongly recommend you start by looking at Winnie the Pooh. Or if you, yourself are struggling with depression and can't find someone to relate to, look to Eeyore. He reminds us that it's ok to be sad and that even sad people can have happy thoughts.