Register here for the Zoom link for the Thursday, September 8 sessions. (Zoom will send you an email.) Register here to attend in person Thursday, September 8 and/or Friday, September 9. Scroll down for the schedule on 9/8 and for the call for papers and posters on 9/9. We intend to be able to offer continuing education credits for healthcare professionals for the 9/8 sessions; check back (shortly!) for the number and types of credits.


So-called deaths of despair—deaths from drug overdoses, suicide, and alcohol-related disease—have markedly increased over the last two decades in the United States. In 2017, the American Psychological Association issued a report on the implications of climate change for mental health: “climate grief” is now a recognized term. Therapists are also reporting what is called “democracy grief,” over the parlous state of our nation. Last but not least, the coronavirus pandemic has wreaked trauma and moral injury on healthcare providers and threatens to leave new forms of despair in its wake.

This interdisciplinary conference, scheduled for Thursday, September 8 and Friday, September 9, 2022, on the King's College campus, is concerned with both the consequences and the causes of despair in the United States: the consequences for health and for our politics; the cultural, economic, and social causes. The conference seeks greater clarity on the interplay between personal and public health, on the one hand, and the health of the body politic, on the other. The conference also seeks, however, to identify and investigate reasons for hope and practices that support it.

Questions in this regard include: How do we understand the virtue of hope? What, too, is despair? How do we inculcate hope in people suffering from despair? What are special opportunities for healthcare professionals and educators? What are best practices for healthcare systems? And how can healthcare professionals sustain the virtue of hope in themselves, especially but not only in dark times like those of the coronavirus pandemic?

We invite papers and posters for presentation the morning of Friday, September 9, following four sessions with invited speakers on Thursday, September 8. We welcome participation from healthcare professionals, educators in the health and biological sciences, scholars in the social sciences (e.g., economics, political science, psychology, and sociology), and scholars in the humanities (e.g., cultural studies, history, literature, philosophy, and theology).

Email proposals (250 words) to Indicate whether you would prefer to present for 1) 20 minutes, with 10 minutes for q and a, or 2) 30 minutes, with 15 minutes for q and a. The due date for proposals is Friday, July 15, 2022.

Here is information on the Thursday, September 8 schedule, speakers, topics, and learning objectives. The conference is co-sponsored by King's College and the Lehigh Valley Health Network, with the support of the Moses Taylor Foundation.

The image for the conference is taken from George Frederic Watts's painting "Hope" (1886). The blind figure of Hope, seated firmly on a globe, plucks a damaged, one-stringed lyre, which she bends over to hear.