While the US election ends soon, mental damage may endure

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 November, 2016, 10:38pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 05 November, 2016, 5:28am

More than half of Americans are experiencing election-related stress comparable to that often attributed to work, money, or the economy, the American Psychological Association has said. While the good news is the presidential contest will end next week, the bad news is that because of the ferocity of the campaign, the mental damage may linger.

George W. Bush’s narrow victory over John Kerry in 2004 inflamed Democrats still angry over Bush’s first election, via the Supreme Court, four years earlier. That 5-4 ruling against Democratic vice-president Al Gore, capping what was the most tempestuous election in modern times. Until now.

“There’s going to be tremendous alienation by all the people who lose on November 9,” said Keith

Humphreys, professor of psychiatry and behavioural sciences at Stanford University. In the event of a Donald Trump victory, minorities are likely to see his election as a popular affirmation of his most negative characterisations.

Uncertainty is stressful. There will be a large proportion of the population that will be relieved that it’s over
William Eaton, Johns Hopkins University

“It’s a sampling of human opinion, how we vote,” Humphreys said. So for Mexican Americans, a Republican victory would put a national imprimatur on Trump’s statement that immigrants coming to the US from Mexico are rapists and drug dealers.

For undocumented immigrants, those fears are likely to be even more acute, said Susan Macios, director of Hispanic Family Centre of Southern New Jersey. “Our Mexican population has been expressing anxiety about deportation,” she said, adding that a Trump victory could send many into hiding.

If Trump loses, it may take a psychological toll on his most fervent supporters, exacerbating feelings of grievance and alienation among many whites who flocked to him, said Humphreys, whose work has focused on remote areas of West Virginia, his own home state. “If Trump loses, they will feel like, ‘I’ve been thrown away’,” he said.

For both sides, at least the uncertainty – barring a 2000-like finish – will be gone come November 9.

“Uncertainty is stressful,” said William Eaton, a professor of mental health at the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “There will be a large proportion of the population that will be relieved that it’s over.”