HEALTHY LIVING

Crisis Help Lines Have Been Inundated Following The Election

If you need help, it's out there.

10/11/2016 9:39 AM AEDT | Updated 11/11/2016 7:30 AM AEDT
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Some crisis intervention resources saw an uptick in users following the election.

Many people felt a deep need to reach out for mental health help following Tuesday night’s election results. 

Crisis Text Line, a mental health service that allows people to chat with a counselor via messaging, experienced twice the average volume in the last 24 hours, according to the organization. 

In an analysis of the messages Crisis Text Line received, data researchers at the organization found the words “election” and “scared” were the top two phrases being mentioned by texters. The most common association with the word “scared” in texts was the phrase “LGBTQ.”

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a 24-hour hotline for people who are at risk for self harm, also saw a rise following the results. The number of calls between the hours of 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. Eastern Time increased by 140 percent, according to John Draper, the project director for the Lifeline.

While we may not know if this particular election that caused psychological distress (it’s possible call volumes increase after any election), it’s also no secret that this divisive and negative race has taken a toll on citizens’ mental health. A survey conducted by the American Psychological Association last month found that the majority of Americans felt significant stress over the election.

“Election stress becomes exacerbated by arguments, stories, images and video on social media that can heighten concern and frustration, particularly with thousands of comments that can range from factual to hostile or even inflammatory,” Lynn Bufka, APA’s associate executive director for practice research and policy, said in a statement following the survey.

That, according to Draper, is what the Lifeline saw firsthand. While the calls into the hotline peaked in the few hours following the results, the stress started to take hold long before. The Lifeline saw a 30 percent rise in calls starting this pas Monday, the day before the election, compared with their average Monday traffic.

“We know during times of great change and uncertainty there are fears, anxieties and, for some, even a large sense of loss,” Draper said. “That’s why the Lifeline is there.”

Exercising self-care can work

The Crisis Text Line analysis found that 88 percent of people who used the service felt connecting with the counselors was useful, which was an increase from their normal rate. Bottom line: These resources do help.

Immediately, it’s important to exercise self care during contentious periods where your mental well-being may be threatened. Experts stress that finding techniques that work for you is crucial.

“Think of three things that make you feel strong: A person, an activity and an online resource,” Nancy Lublin, chief executive officer and founder of Crisis Text Line told HuffPost. “Prioritize these things.” 

And, most importantly, both Lublin and Draper hope anyone struggling with a mental health issue ― no matter if it’s election-related or not ― knows that they’re not alone in their experience. Below are a few other ways you can take care of your mental health following the election:

Spend time with loved ones.
There’s power in human connection and social support. Research shows hanging out with close friends can beat stress.

Keep up a routine.
”Going about your day can help during difficult times,” Draper said. That may include going to work, heading to the gym or even just making your weekly grocery store trip. “It’s nice to do things that are familiar because it reminds yourself that you’re not out of control,” he stressed.

Write down your emotions.
Put pen to paper to sort out what’s going on with your psychological wellness. Then it might be worth chucking it: Studies have found that writing down negative feelings and physically throwing them away can help clear your mind.

Allow yourself to feel sad...
We experience a spectrum of emotions, including negative ones. “Once you fully accept that you are affected by this loss then you can begin to move forward and eventually heal,” grief therapist Claire Bidwell Smith wrote in HuffPost.

...but seek help if it becomes overwhelming.
There’s nothing wrong with talking to someone. Reach out to crisis hotlines or a mental health professional if your sadness ― for any reason ― is interfering with your every day life.

If you’re in crisis, you can text HELLO to 741-741 for free, 24-hour support from the Crisis Text Line.

If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of resources.

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