Let young hearts run free

Children must be protected from covid-crazed adults

I DIDN’T spend my childhood cowering from common respiratory viruses, covering my face and fearing contact with fellow human beings. And I wasn’t immersed in the propaganda of cataclysmic climate change in every classroom. But that is the reality in schools today. Can doom youth be saved from the spiral of fear?


As a mental health lecturer for many years, I observed a changing culture among students, who evolved from fun-loving risk-takers to rule-following worriers. Universities assumed locus-parentis, treating students not as independent adults but vulnerable fledglings. In the book Coddling of the American Mind, Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt described three faulty beliefs that have taken hold in the younger generations:

1. The untruth of fragility: setbacks become trauma

2. The untruth of emotional reasoning: feelings elevated over fact

3. The untruth of us versus them: the other side (usually people with traditional or insufficiently woke opinions) are not only wrong but immoral, and must be cancelled

For the first two decades of this century, mainstream media were obsessing over a mental health crisis in younger people. From The Guardian to the Daily Mail, across the political spectrum, all had the same agenda. This made me suspicious. Was it being pushed by Big Pharma, to expand their lucrative market in antidepressants?

With two fellow lecturers, I conducted a survey of British newspaper coverage of this topic over the years 2016 to 2018. We found an increasingly shrill warning of children’s exposure to a psychologically toxic society. The internet was the biggest culprit: particularly addictive gaming in boys and the pressures of social media on girls. Yet little evidence was provided for a mental health emergency. In fact, there was no significant change in official clinical statistics. Some siren blasts seemed primarily motivated by professional status and funding.

Around the same time, I contributed to a systematic review of research on whether use of social media causes psychological harm to younger people. The result was my most cited academic paper. We found merely a weak correlation, indicating that concerns were overblown. I’m sure that the paper would have been widely publicised if its results had been scarier.

While it cannot be healthy for people to spend their waking hours on their mobile phones, exploited by Big Tech. But one of the surest ways to cause distress in teenagers is to stop them using the internet, or to confiscate their device. Pessimism is justifiable, but society has a tendency to adapt to new technology after initial concerns. In the Victorian age, people were diagnosed with ‘railway sickness’, a condition attributed to the unnatural movements of train travel.

Ironically, after so much ‘cry wolf’ on mass mental morbidity, when a real crisis occurred, the media didn’t want to know. Worse – commentators and quoted ‘experts’ actively promoted contributors to turmoil in teenagers. I’m referring, of course, to lockdown, social distancing, mask-wearing and the government’s campaign of fear and the false crutch of vaccination.

The COVID-19 regime wreaked acute and lasting psychological damage. Bob Moran, the popular cartoonist, was fired from the Daily Telegraph after an online spat with the NHS doctor and covid zealot, Rachel Clarke. I represented Bob for the Workers of England Union, and I heard his anguish over the impact of the covid clampdown on his daughter. She was one of many to suffer.

Belatedly, the newspapers are reporting the carnage. Last week, The Guardian reported a new high of 420,314 open referrals to child and adolescent mental health services in the year from April 1, 2021. But this is attributed to covid rather than policy.

Now the World Health Organisation is on a power grab, to ensure global compliance for future pandemics. Remote and unelected bureaucrats could close schools, mandate masks and vaccines for adults and children, and detain healthy people in quarantine

camps. China, the land of zero covid extremism, seems to be the model for public health dictatorship. The Lancet published an article lauding the ‘life-saving lockdown in Shanghai’, despite numerous residents of high-rise apartment blocks jumping to their deaths.

The majority of the public still believe that COVID-19 was a plague. Many would shrug their shoulders at a WHO treaty that overrides national sovereignty.

Thirty years ago, I read Will Self’s The Quantity Theory of Insanity, a spoof thesis whereby every society has a quotient of mental disturbance. I always thought that this had merit. In recent decades, schizophrenia has declined, as a floridly psychotic minority has been replaced by a widespread prevalence of angst. Such a condition, as we have seen, was ripe for the mass hysteria of COVID-19.

We must protect our children from the paranoia and puritanism of covid-crazed adults. Younger people are our future. Let’s nurture them as resilient critical thinkers who can say ‘no’ to coercion. As George Benson sang, ‘teach them well and let them lead the way’.

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