• Show Notes

In the first episode of a two-part series, Heather and Joanne look at how the traditional American medical establishment has conceived of mental health over our national history. What can these designations say about the pandemic-associated mental health crises we currently face? How have powerful Americans defined “normalcy” and “abnormalcy” at various points?

They explore the pioneering and controversial Philadelphia physician Benjamin Rush, the rise and fall of the “neurasthenia” diagnosis, and the 1950s emergence of antidepressants.

How can we be in touch with our own mental health? Join CAFE Insider to listen to “Backstage,” where Heather and Joanne chat each week about the anecdotes and ideas that formed the episode. Head to: cafe.com/history

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Executive Producer: Tamara Sepper; Editorial Producer: David Kurlander; Audio Producer: Matthew Billy; Theme Music: Nat Weiner; CAFE Team: Adam Waller, David Tatasciore, Sam Ozer-Staton, Noa Azulai, and Jake Kaplan. Now & Then is presented by CAFE and the Vox Media Podcast Network.


  • Kat Lonsdorf, “People are developing trauma-like symptoms as the pandemic wears on,” NPR, 4/7/2022
  • Deidre McPhillips, “90% of US adults say the United States is experiencing a mental health crisis, CNN/KFF poll finds,” CNN, 10/5/2022
  • “Psychologists struggle to meet demand amid mental health crisis,” American Psychological Association, 2022
  • Katie O’Connor, “Biden Urges Bipartisan Effort on Mental Health,” American Psychiatric Association, 2/9/2023