It has long been the case that western societies focus more on, and value much more greatly, physical health over mental health. The former is universally viewed as a necessity while the latter is often treated as a luxury or an abstraction. For understandable reasons, that disparity has intensified with the outbreak of a global pandemic, in which there is seemingly endless discussion of lethal viruses and immune systems and less attention than ever paid to emotional well-being and mental health challenges.
But the failure to pay sufficient attention can produce extremely damaging and enduring outcomes. Even prior to the advent of the coronavirus pandemic, rates for mental health pathologies in the west — depression, anxiety disorders, addiction, and suicide — were rapidly increasing to disturbingly new levels. The internet, hailed at the start as an innovation that would connect humans more than ever before, has instead isolated us from one another, worsening these deprivations It goes without saying that the traumas of this pandemic — the unraveling of our way of life for however long that lasts, the compulsory viewing of all other humans as threats, and especially sustained isolation and social distancing — will only exacerbate those trends.
Our newest edition of SYSTEM UPDATE, broadcast today on the Intercept’s YouTube channel, is devoted to exploring the mental health and emotional well-being dimensions of this pandemic and our responses to it. Joining me are two authors who have written among the most influential books on these topics: Andrew Solomon, Professor of Clinical Psychology at Columbia University Medical Center and author of the worldwide 2002 best-seller A Noonday Demon: an Atlas of Depression, and Johann Hari, author of the 2015 book on the causes of addiction, “Chasing the Scream,” author of the 2018 “Lost Connections” about depression, and the speaker of one of the most viral TEDTalks ever delivered, about myths surrounding addiction.
You can watch the full program on The Intercept’s channel or on the player below, where a transcript will also be posted later today:
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Last night we broadcast a special edition of SYSTEM UPDATE to explore the question of whether Sanders supporters specifically and the left generally should throw their support behind Joe Biden’s candidacy. My two guests were the Sanders campaign’s former Press Secretary Brianha Joy Gray, who announced that at least for now she would not be endorsing Biden, and the activist and journalist Benjamin Dixon. The program, roughly 30 minutes long, can be viewed here.
I also conducted the first live chat of SYSTEM UPDATE last night where I answered viewers’ questions about that debate as well as a variety of other topics. That can be viewed here. Be sure to subscribe to the Intercept’s YouTube channel to be advised of all of our original new content when it is published.