Anxiety, depression and self-doubt are not
traditionally words associated with school-age children. Past generations may
have instead described these children as troublesome, talkative, slow or shy,
the “black sheep” and other derogatory explanations for their misunderstood
However, the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention shares that one in six U.S. children have a clinically diagnosed
mental, behavioral or developmental disorder. According to the Mayo Clinic,
with or without a clinical diagnosis, school-age children can experience mental
health related symptoms as a result of family life changes, bullying, food
allergies and other short-term issues.
Los Angeles-based artist and animator Danny
Casale, well-known as Coolman Coffeedan
, understands firsthand how childhood
mental health issues can impact how adults experience life. Casale grew up in
Long Island, New York, describing himself as a misunderstood creative-type of
kid in a “non-artsy” environment. He shares how bullying and confidence issues
impacted his school life and contributed to anxiety and depression symptoms.
“Doodling, my art, in a very real way was
the only thing that kept me awake in school,” Casale recalls. “I started building
my confidence through art. And as other kids noticed what I was creating,
doodling and comic art became my social currency. I learned that I could make
people laugh and smile, and connect with them through my illustrations.” He
explains how these experiences helped him learn to embrace and validate the
uniqueness of who he was and gave him the confidence to keep sharing his
But art was not just an outlet for Casale,
who realized at a young age that although simple in style, these important messages
can impact children and adults alike. Coolman Coffeedan
first went viral in
June of 2017 when his cartoon, “Snakes Have Legs
,” accumulated tens of millions
of views on YouTube. Following the success of his video, this self-proclaimed
“bad animator” continued creating art in his unique style, springboarding his
professional career and reaching hundreds of millions more around the world.
“These core messages are not said enough in
our world. You are loved. You are special. You are okay exactly as you are. You
will find the crowd that accepts and validates you.” Casale wants his fans to
experience his art on and offline as a “shoulder to cry on” in a world that may
not always get you. He also hopes fans see his work as relatable and digestible,
enjoying the humor and fun of the storytelling.
His interest in starting a bigger
conversation inspired him to translate his animated characters into print with
the launch of his book, UR SPECIAL: Advice for Humans from Coolman Coffeedan,
on sale November 2. Each chapter introduces a new friend and a new hardship,
offering a positive affirmation for the reader to take away. The book tackles
serious mental health topics from loneliness to self-confidence utilizing
Casale’s animated characters and comedic style. Longtime fans of Casale’s Coolman Coffeedan accounts can expect new material as once standalone
characters evolve into and through a longer story message.
Whether through his YouTube
and online content, book or numerous other projects, Casale hopes to keep
bringing forward powerful, simple stories using his unique voice.
Casale and his team
Awakenings magazine readers to explore his website at CoolmanCoffeedan.com,
in addition to following his work on their favorite social media platforms.
Anna Marie Imbordino is a writer,
award-winning publicist and environmentalist based in Chicago and Charleston,
SC. Connect on social media by following @teawiththebee.