Blame Woke Mind Virus, Not Coronavirus, for Young Americans’ Mental Health Crisis

“We swallow greedily any lie that flatters us, but we sip only little by little at a truth we find bitter.”
– Denis Didero

The French philosopher could not have foreseen the delicate state of today’s young minds, who are culturally conditioned, coddled, and deceived to reject the truth when he wrote those sobering words in his 1821 book Rameau’s Nephew. Given the rise of campus safetyism, speech codes, cancel culture, and the underlying stronghold of liberal values, college students nowadays are rapidly developing immunity against inconvenient facts and controversial opinions.

Consequential ramifications follow.

Society at large is experiencing an illiberal cultural reorientation that threatens to erode the very foundation of American democracy, for which enlightenment rationalism, colorblind equality, freedom of speech, and constitutional neutrality matter fundamentally. Public and private institutions mindlessly chase the fashion tides of identity politics, oftentimes not because they agree but to appease a demanding and menacing crowd.

At the personal level, many Americans, especially those raised on values of leftism, are increasingly struggling to find meaning and purpose in life.

A March 2024 U.S. News/Generation Lab survey of 3,649 U.S. college students found that 70 percent of the respondents suffered from mental health issues since starting college. Among them, 77 percent were female, 68 percent black, 73 percent white, 70 percent Hispanic, and 64 percent were Asian American and Pacific Islanders.

At its “second annual State of Equity in America forum,” U.S. News & World Report discussed the survey, strategizing solutions.

Panelists for this topic, entitled “How Colleges Are Prioritizing Mental Health and Neurodiversity on Campus,” dwelled on the theory that the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated college students’ mental health problems. When pressed to elaborate on why the pandemic is treated as the starting point, the reporter from U.S. News & World Report responded:

Our survey did not address this specific question. It mostly focused on whether students were seeking help, what they were seeking help for, why they didn’t seek help if they needed it, etc.

After quickly reaching a verdict on the virus’s devasting effects, the “State of Equity” speakers moved on to advocate for more mental health resources for “students of color,” “LGBTQIA+ students,” and “young people who are neurodivergent.” In other words, the “professionals” suggest subdividing or desegregating college-going young adults into a proliferation of identity boxes, as if they are not already confused enough, and targeting mental health care based on their arbitrary group labels.

This is, in every sense, maddening.

First of all, the focus on solutions rather than the cause is entirely farcical. How can one arrive at any meaningful redress without even investigating the contributing factors?

Mental health among Gen-Z college students has been in crisis since before 2020. Although U.S. News offers research evidence detailing the pandemic’s psychological effect on children and youth, the data points at best described a short-term trend and prescribed a correlational relationship. For instance, the survey of 3,239 high school and higher education students regarding COVID-19 and mental health was done in April 2020. Similarly, the JAMA Pediatrics’ analysis of anxiety and depression among 80,000 children and adolescents across 11 countries was released in January 2022.

There is a more plausible explanation for our kids’ concerning state of mental well-being. They are being indoctrinated relentlessly by an ideology that obsesses over personal feelings, refuses life’s profound realities, assigns shame based on group labels, and takes away personal agency, all in the name of equity, diversity, or justice.

It is a secular religion that is nihilist, hedonist, and cynical. We can find a robust literature of studies and essays that demonstrate the causal effects and causal mechanism between the degree to which a young person is captured by this ideology and his or her level of mental health struggles.

As early as 1987, when Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind was published, critics of our higher education system had caught onto the depravations caused by prioritizing historicism, feminism, and cultural relativism, intellectual preludes to the full-blown wokeism infesting college campuses today. Bloom wrote, almost prophetically,

As it now stands, students have powerful images of what the perfect body is and pursue it incessantly. But deprived of literary guidance, they no longer have any image of a perfect soul, and hence do not long to have one. They do not even imagine that there is such a thing… Students today are largely apathetic about any concerns outside of themselves. There isn’t any malice in this self-centeredness; but it has become so entrenched in American culture that it isn’t even recognized as unusual.

In their 2018 bestselling book The Coddling of the American Mind, Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt studies the mental health crisis among American and British teenagers. Noting the alarming increase in rates of anxiety, depression, and self-harm, Lukianoff and Haidt pinpoint the culture of safetyism, a regime in which emotional safety becomes the sacrament of higher education at all expenses, as the culprit behind the growing mental fragility and uneasiness in children and teens. They argue:

A culture that allows the concept of “safety” to creep so far that it equates emotional discomfort with physical danger is a culture that encourages people to systematically protect one another from the very experiences embedded in daily life that they need in order to become strong and healthy.

Bolder observers take a step further and submit that leftist beliefs make kids sadder, angrier, and less fulfilled. A 2024 essay published by the Economist shows that liberal boys and girls report higher rates of depression than their conservative counterparts, mostly due to the decline or absence of mitigating factors such as patriotism, religiosity, and physical health—obesity has skyrocketed. In her latest book Bad Therapy: Why the Kids Aren’t Growing Up, Abigail Shrier notices similar trends.

Some psychologists theorize a “happiness gap” between conservatives and liberals due to the former’s greater personal agency, more positive outlook on life, and more moral beliefs. Others attribute conservatives’ better subjective well-being to the rationalization of inequality. At any rate, the consensus is that culture, beliefs, political persuasion, and values largely explain a person’s mental health status.

Yet, torch-bearers of the woke cult readily discard the intellectual curiosity to investigate further and find in the pandemic a convenient scapegoat for the decades-long, harmful undertaking of capturing the young minds with the everything-goes, safety-over-reason, victim-or-victimizer mind virus. And just like a self-fulfilling prophecy, the more kids and young adults the woke religion inculcates, the worse they are mentally, even the more likely they turn to the mind virus that got them sick in the first place. A wishy-washy safety blanket turns into a straightjacket.

Photo by AntonioDiaz — Adobe Stock — Assest ID# 483677257


2 thoughts on “Blame Woke Mind Virus, Not Coronavirus, for Young Americans’ Mental Health Crisis

  1. One other aspect of this is the campus “Hookup Culture” where random strangers have sex and then try to build a relationship the next morning. I strongly recommend reading Miriam Grossman’s _Unprotected_ —

  2. PLEASE! They are LEFTISTS, not “Liberals”, let alone “liberals” — they are way too intolerant to be considered even (capitol “L”) Liberals….

    Reality is that it is a mantra of approved thoughts and many have an internal conflict between these approved thoughts and their own thoughts — silencing the latter because of not only social pressure but the need to get a “good” job upon graduation and the rest.

    The message is clear — good leftists will gain economic success both in the college and after graduation, while outspoken conservatives will be lucky not to be expelled. And the institution doesn’t have to boot many, on often trumped up charges, to make an example of the consequences of dissent.

    But Rush Limbough was a small “l” liberal — anyone who cites Locke (or Jefferson’s citation of Locke) inherently is one. The liberal believes in the individual and the individual’s God-given right to the individual’s life, liberty, and property. The leftist believes in the group, and a lot of the psych problems come from that — and the very blunt question of “if I commit suicide, how is that a loss to society?” — and that’s the consequence of the elimination of the individual.

    It’s why I consider _Brave New World_ to be more chilling than _1984_ — and why people like me are no longer employable in the Student Affairs field. And Dr. Wu is right about it being the root cause of the psych stuff we are now seeing (also in K-12).

    But please don’t call them “Liberals.”

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