Psychiatric Views on the Daily News - Episode 33

Life, Liberty, and Despair in Rural America

“Give me liberty, or give me death.” How does this apply to rural America today?

PSYCHIATRIC VIEWS ON THE DAILY NEWS

Our country’s current conflict about pandemic mandates may remind man of the famous quote, “Give me liberty, or give me death.” It is attributed to a speech of Patrick Henry in 1775, which is credited with inspiring the Virginia Convention to send troops for the Revolutionary War. Of course, history tells us that the quest for liberty was a key factor in our becoming a country. On the other hand, the quest for liberty of the southern states in the Civil War did not work out that way.

Among the current differences of opinion about liberty, we have urban and rural differences as reflected in our recent elections and social research. A study published in the journal Rural Sociology, “COVID-19 in Rural America: Impacts of Politics and Disadvantage,” found that political views, in this case rural Republican voters, were the strongest variable explaining higher per capita COVID-19 cases.1 As far as ensuing deaths went, measures of disadvantage like lower educational attainment, high poverty rates, and relatively higher minority populations were the best predictors.

Those who make the personal decision to not get vaccinated seem to then face adverse health repercussions, not only for themselves, but others they might infect. People of both political parties and psychiatry must have some responsibility for addressing the underlying problems contributing to the so-called deaths of despair of these people, sometimes called “deplorables,” who have found their opportunities and hope diminished, leading to political desperation, opioid use, liver failure, and suicide. Improving their psychosocial status should give their life realistic optimism and meaning once again, and thereby help to unify the country.

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who has specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry. A prolific writer and speaker, he received the one-time designation of Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association in 2002. He is an advocate for mental health issues relate to climate instability, burnout, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism for a better world. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric TimesTM.

Reference

1. Albrecht DE. COVID-19 in rural America: impacts of politics and disadvantage. Rural Sociology. August 23, 2021. Accessed November 5, 2021. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/ruso.12404