American men in crisis

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy is an unusual doctor, but the level of unusual is rising. He is a doctor whose main interest is in problems not often thought of as medicine. He had the authority to prescribe medication, but the medication he was interested in was not available at the pharmacy.

He is part of a wave of public health doctors and thinkers who have tried in recent years to give us a more holistic view of health. These doctors want us to see more health challenges as related to larger choices and social problems, and more social problems as health problems.

Murthy, now in his second term as surgeon general, is particularly concerned about loneliness. You already feel it. I already feel it. We all feel it. But Murthy believes that this is a common social problem and of course health problems, like cancer or diabetes. I wish this had been a common teaching when I was in middle school.

Today, we bring you this very special conversation with the U.S. Surgeon General, touching on many of the topics we’ve been pursuing here at The Ink: Why would-be autocrats are better at fighting anxiety, fear, and fear than democratically minded people Connecting with people who are adrift, the truth is based on the leader, does that have to be the case? Is capitalism to blame for the isolation so many Americans now experience? Why are so many American men in crisis? Is it possible to simultaneously hold in one’s mind the thoughts that (a) men have suffered for too long and (b) if we don’t help men cope with the transition to a more gender equal society, everyone will suffer? Is social media more like tobacco or opioids for minors?

This is a very special conversation. You won’t want to miss it.

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I see that the crisis of loneliness you discuss is not just something we see happening to individuals, but is connected to a larger political and institutional crisis in the country.

Heading into an election year, how do you connect loneliness and isolation to the rise of authoritarian movements, fascist movements, and interest in violence moving from the corners of political life into the mainstream?

Well, our relationships with each other are an important part of how we are grounded in the world and how we buffer ourselves from stress and adversity in life. When we don’t have this connection, we are more susceptible to the uncertainty and adversity around us and feel more threatened.

In this state, we are more likely to be influenced by forces that divide us, polarize society, and seek to force us to take extreme actions in the face of threats.

I’ll give you an example: If someone told me that my child was in imminent danger, and they led me to believe that they were the only ones who could help, I would be overlooking a lot of shortcomings, a lot of the basic moral disagreements I have and that personal. If I thought they could save what was most important to me, I would set aside a lot of worries about the impact they might have on other parts of my life or the world.


That’s one of the reasons I’m worried about an epidemic of this loneliness that’s being experienced not just in the United States, but around the world. It has a profound impact on individual health, physical and psychological, as well as on the health of society. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we’re seeing increasing polarization and division at a time when our connections to each other are severely frayed.

In addition to the fact that you often raise this issue publicly, it seems to me that the evangelists of division you mentioned are generally better at diagnosing what’s going on than your allies. Demagogues understand the status anxiety white people feel in a changing country better than those who truly want progress. The fact that Jordan Peterson is better at dealing with the crisis of masculinity than anyone who talks to men in a good way.

Can you talk about why a lot of people in the government where you work, who are aligned with you, don’t really think about the dimensions of the impact, and why the bad guys are, in many cases, much smarter about it?

One of the challenges we’ve seen lately is that sometimes we forget that humans are both brain and emotion beings. We are all like this. We have the ability to feel; we have the ability to think.

But one thing I learned early in medical school is that you have to recognize and treat both parts of the human being. If someone has congestive heart failure and they’re hospitalized with worsening leg swelling, if all you do is give them a diuretic, water pills to help get rid of some of the water and reduce the swelling, but you don’t realize it because they Their legs are swollen and they can’t walk, they miss their daughter’s wedding, they miss a lot of important family moments, then you’re missing a very important part of how their disease affects them.

That’s one of the reasons why you sometimes find in medicine that patients go to the doctor and even though by the book they’re going to get the right treatment, the right antibiotics, the right medication, they leave feeling like they’re not seen See, hear and understand. So you have to treat the whole patient. It’s not just about getting the brain part right.

So we have to recognize that, yes, there are material concerns in people’s lives about the economy, security, housing crises and other challenges, but there is also a deeper spiritual crisis that is happening in many countries. In the world, this is a crisis characterized by people feeling a greater sense of disconnection from each other and feeling disconnected or disconnected from sources of meaning and purpose in their lives.

So this is a place where policy is important, but policy alone is not enough to address the deeper pain in people’s lives. We must listen, and we must understand and address the pragmatic and deeper emotional spiritual crises that people are experiencing right now. Otherwise, we make people feel like we don’t see them, we don’t hear them, and we don’t understand what’s really going on in their lives.


It makes me think that we have a lot of well-intentioned leaders who are more willing to talk about brain issues than they are—building bridges, drug prices, Medicaid expansion, these difficult but fundamental policy issues. matter.

Well, you make an excellent point, and I think it reflects a broader cultural trend over the past few decades where we view certain skills and topics as hard skills and others as soft skills. We include intellectual analysis, policy details, numbers-based assessments, etc. under this category of hard skills. If I can talk about numbers, if I can talk about specific deliverables, if I can talk about making progress on metrics, then okay, that has real value. But other things, soft things, are considered less valuable, or things that don’t require skills to do.

This couldn’t be further from the truth, and it betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of humanity.

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