Why post-pandemic Americans are 'immersed in psychological misery': former Reagan speechwriter

Why post-pandemic Americans are 'immersed in psychological misery': former Reagan speechwriter
Image via Gage Skidmore.

During the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021, some optimists (including Yale University's Dr Nicholas Christakis) predicted that history would repeated itself when the 2020s turned into the "new Roaring ‘20s." The original Roaring ‘20s were the 1920s, which followed the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 and 1919. The term "social distancing" wasn't around 104 or 105 years ago, but the idea certainly was. And millions of people who saw the Spanish flu death toll soaring feared becoming one of the fatalities.

The isolation of the Spanish flu, however, was followed by a period of extensive social activity. The 1920s went down in history as wild times and are remembered for Prohibition, jazz bands, bootleggers, Al Capone, flappers, bob cuts and "The Great Gatsby." And in 2020 and 2021, some pundits envisioned a surge in social activity following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Conservative columnist Mona Charen, a Never Trumper and former Reagan White House speechwriter, was among the journalists who wondered if the 2020s would eventually echo the 1920s. But in an article published by The Bulwark on March 22, Charen laments that so far, 2023 has been a year of sadness and despair — as well as isolation — for way too many Americans.

READ MORE:COVID-19 pandemic will be followed by the 'new Roaring 20s' and 'relentless social interactions': epidemiologist

"I recall imagining, back in 2020, that when COVID-19 was finally in the rearview mirror, we would witness a global party of epic proportions," Charen explains. "If the 'Roaring Twenties' were partly a reaction to the ebbing of the Spanish flu, perhaps the 2020s would feature a similar eruption of animal spirits and devil-may-care antics — albeit, alas, without the flapper dresses and headbands."

Although still highly contagious, COVID-19 is not as deadly as it was two or three years ago. Vaccines are widely available, and most of the COVID-19 infections of 2023 have not been fatal or required hospitalization. Vaccines haven't eliminated COVID-19 by any means, but they've made it a lot more manageable.

According to Charen, the United States is facing a different type of health crisis in 2023 — a mental health crisis.

"As Surgeon General Vivek Murthy has observed in a series of interviews, not only are we not kicking up our heels, we are immersed in various forms of psychological misery," Charen observes. "Pick a survey. In 2022, Pew Research found that 41 percent of adults had experienced high levels of mental distress since the onset of the pandemic. The New York Times reports that suicide rates for those aged 10 to 19 increased by 40 percent between 2001 and 2019, and the hospitalization rate for self-harm rose by 88 percent. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that nearly three in five teenaged girls experienced extreme sadness in 2021, double the rate for boys, and one in three considered suicide."

READ MORE: Psychologist explains why the coronavirus pandemic is likely to inflict 'profound psychological effects' for some time to come

Charen adds, "Some of these findings reflect the added stress of dealing with the pandemic, but longer-term studies have shown similar results."

The conservative journalist goes on to cite some reasons for all this "psychological misery."

"The kids are not all right, and neither are adults," Charen warns. "Confronted with data about unhappiness, many are tempted to mount their own hobbyhorses. Some cite political polarization. Others blame Big Pharma and its greedy peddling of opioids. Others cite climate change, or inequality, or racism, or wokeness, or insert-your-grievance-here."

Another reason for "psychological misery," she adds, is loneliness.

"In Genesis 2:18," Charen notes, "God says, 'It is not good for man to be alone.' We haven't yet absorbed that lesson sufficiently."

READ MORE: How 'incel culture' combines 'dangerous far-right ideologies' with mental health problems: report

Read Mona Charen's full article for The Bulwark at this link.

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