Mental health counselor sees surge of election anxiety

Ted Land talks to licensed mental health counselor Bernice Imeihsu about the dramatic increase in the number of clients she sees who are concerned about the election.

This election is causing a lot of anxiety among voters, according to a Seattle mental health counselor who has seen a big increase in campaign-related tension among her clients.

“I’ve never had this many clients actually talk about the election during the time that they are here seeking services,” said Bernice Imei Hsu, a registered nurse and licensed mental health counselor, who has an office in Pioneer Square.

It started in May.  Clients would call to set up an appointment, and one of the first topics that came up was politics.

“From May until now, about 85% of my new client inquiries have been election-related,” Hsu said Monday.

Also unusual: many Hsu’s new clients are women and minorities who are seeking a female counselor, preferably a woman of color. They worry about racial discrimination, immigration, and how a new president might influence their lives, among other issues.

“It’s only increased in terms of the number of people who are asking about it, and I expect actually by the end of today that there will be a few more,” she said.

Hsu first assesses how well her clients can handle conflict and change. She then helps them come up with a plan for how they might react to election results.

She asks clients to identify people in their lives who can help them discuss their anxieties and needs. She also encourages clients to practice “relentless self-care.”

“Maybe they need to take a little break, maybe they need to turn down the volume a bit of their social media feeds, stop screaming in all caps, or reading other people scream in all caps, turn it down, tone it down, and take care of themselves,” Hsu said.

It might be helpful to get sleep, eat a good meal, socialize with people they trust, exercise, and take some time to do activities which will help take their minds off of the election, if only for a few hours.

And if they haven’t already done so, Hsu is encouraging her clients to vote, which can empower them and help calm their anxieties.

“It isn’t over tomorrow,” Hsu said, “it’s just a beginning, there's going to be a time when everybody is processing what’s happening.”

For last minute voters

If you are looking for a place to drop off your ballot, here is a list of ballot drop boxes and voting service centers in Washington State.  

For any other questions related to voting and the election in our state, visit the Secretary of State's website

Copyright 2016 KING


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