The number of people seeking counseling from certain crisis services and hotlines surged to two to three times the usual rate following the results of the 2016 election, mental health professionals say, as Americans face unknowns about the next administration.
During a divisive election cycle full of vitriol and rhetoric that minorities, women, and members of the LGBTQ community found not only offensive but also potentially dangerous, many felt betrayed by voters who chose Donald Trump, who has been accused of assaulting women and has planned to bar, or severely limit, the entrance of Muslim and Hispanic immigrants.
Following Mr. Trump’s victory, services like the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, the Crisis Text Line, and the Trevor Project, which focuses on helping LGBTQ youth, fielded hundreds or thousands of inquiries from Americans who feared they might lose health care and civil rights under a Trump administration, or face additional harassment from a sect of his increasingly vocal and radical supporters.
While professionals are linking the increased calls to the election, they also note that the anxieties callers are expressing draw from past experiences and issues.
"I can't say I've seen anything like this. ... And it's certainly not something I've ever seen in an election," John Draper, a mental health professional who works with the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, told CNN. "They call and say it's the election. But by the end of the call, it's about their lives, and that's when we can help them."
For some, it’s not surprising that the election has triggered such strong fears and brought them to the surface. According to the American Psychological Association, 52 percent of adults expressed feeling stress related to the campaign. Experts recommended that those experiencing such feelings limit their engagement with social media and the barraging nature of the 24-hour new cycle, instead reading or watching just enough news to remain informed on the issues.
But those experiencing post-election anxieties are largely citizens from vulnerable groups, including many individuals with some history of mental health issues. Counselors recommend that those who know someone experiencing suicidal thoughts support them and direct them to a professional service that can offer understanding and support.
Others have turned to social media to offer their support and information about resources for recovering addicts and those who feel depressed, anxious, or suicidal. While some views espoused on Twitter and Facebook can further alienate those users and reignite their fears, the sites have also played a role in providing comfort and building communities.
"Seen some lovely tweets from sober brothers/sisters about not drinking/using right now," actor Rob Delaney tweeted early Wednesday morning. "I'm sober & I won't drink today. Don't you either."
Dr. Draper also recommended that those who currently feel hopeless find ways to show compassion to others by joining a volunteer organization or supporting a cause that promotes issues they care about.
"Bind that anxiety through action," he told CNN. "Creating a more kind, personal atmosphere is really needed right now."