As Texas State's Counseling Center reports higher levels of stress and anxiety among students due to a divisive political environment, students are speaking out about how the 2020 election has impacted their mental health.
Counseling Center psychologist Mark Provence says the center has seen signs of students' stress levels rising due to the general election.
“There are a lot of students who are really dreading certain outcomes to the election and may really feel some deep sadness and despair depending on who gets elected," Provence said.
Provence referenced a survey published by the American Psychological Association in October, which found that 68% of Americans think the current presidential election is a source of stress in their lives, with 77% feeling that the future of the U.S. is a significant source of stress.
Kara Rust, a senior public administration major, says the current political climate has been stressful because of the constant stream of political news on social media.
“I definitely feel a little stressed about it; I’m pretty involved in politics and reading stuff every day, it kind of takes a toll,” Rust said. “I tend to internalize things and [the election] does stress me out.”
Rust believes the constant stream of news has played a part in the high stress levels of Americans during this election season. She says she has lost friends because of the current political climate, adding that it is less about political ideas and more about morals that do not align with hers.
“It means a lot to me [if people are] supportive of [ideas] that are fundamentally against things that are part of myself, like my sexuality or my gender," Rust said.
Meliza Soto, a junior English major, feels like the political climate around this election has been very divisive, particularly with immigrant communities and groups such as the LGBTQIA+ community.
“Messages that are degrading toward our communities, around what immigration looks like, and the way that people refer to immigrants from Mexico,” Soto said. ”I also have a pretty large friend group in the LGBTQIA+ community, and they are feeling scared for their rights.”
Due to this rhetoric, Soto feels that people have become worried, adding to the stress surrounding the election.
“I would say, the mood has been extremely divisive around this election, like more so than any other election," Soto said. "When we're getting constant updates it can be a lot easier to go down a rabbit hole. I guess the overall [political] engagement has increased because of that."
CJ Cetina, a junior political science major and member of the Texas State College Democrats, says this election has been very stressful to him, especially due to stark division taking place in prominent political leadership in the country.
”I can’t sleep at night because of the election and how stressful it has been. I also know other people are really scared and stressed out for the outcome as well," Cetina said.
Cetina says one of the biggest problems during election season is misinformation. He believes to combat election anxiety, voters should strive to be as informed as possible to be able to spot potential misinformation.
“I definitely see misinformation, and I really think we should hold social media companies accountable for the rapid growth of misinformation on Facebook and Twitter," Cetina said.
Provence says the best way to combat the stress of the election season is to unplug from social media and get involved with one's community. He says those with anxiety about the negative effects of an election may benefit from contributing positive political change at a local level.
“Giving yourself permission to feel your feelings and express them is important,” Provence said. “Some ways to do that are through writing, creative projects, even something like crafting, any kind of physical movement.”
Provence says it’s important to reach out to a trusted individual to discuss feelings of anxiety and depression and that the Counseling Center is open to all students.
“At the Counseling Center, right now, we're offering any students who haven't come to us in the past a brief assessment with the counselor to help figure out the next steps,” Provence said.
All counseling services are being offered remotely during the pandemic. Students can go to the Counseling Center website to schedule an appointment.