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Americans worry about politics, nation’s future

Kathy Aney

East Oregonian

Published on November 15, 2017 8:47PM

Last changed on November 15, 2017 9:30PM

George Winter of Pendleton hand writes a letter to the members of the U.S. Congress asking to lower spending at the Pentagon on Wednesday at Sisters Cafe in Pendleton. Winter is part of a group that meets once a week to write letters to their representatives in the House and Senate in Washington D.C.

Staff photo by E.J. Harris

George Winter of Pendleton hand writes a letter to the members of the U.S. Congress asking to lower spending at the Pentagon on Wednesday at Sisters Cafe in Pendleton. Winter is part of a group that meets once a week to write letters to their representatives in the House and Senate in Washington D.C.

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Chris Schuening, top left, Vickie Hendricks, top center, and George Winter discuss political topics with two other members of their lunch group, neither wanted to be identified, on Wednesday at Sister’s Cafe in Pendleton. The group gathers once a week to write letters to their representatives in Washington D.C.

Staff photo by E.J. Harris

Chris Schuening, top left, Vickie Hendricks, top center, and George Winter discuss political topics with two other members of their lunch group, neither wanted to be identified, on Wednesday at Sister’s Cafe in Pendleton. The group gathers once a week to write letters to their representatives in Washington D.C.

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Katherine Walter, a counselor working in Seattle, says clients are anxious about the political climate and future of the country.

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Katherine Walter, a counselor working in Seattle, says clients are anxious about the political climate and future of the country.

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America is stressed out.

We worry about things like finances and work, but this year, we are most anxious about what lies ahead for our country.

“Sixty-three percent of Americans reported that our nation’s future was a significant source of stress,” said Vaile Wright, director of research at the American Psychological Association, the organization that hired Harris Poll to conduct the Stress in America Survey. “That was higher than for money or work — which is what people usually report as their highest source of stress.”

Some are calling this collective societal angst “post-election stress disorder.”

According to the survey, 59 percent of us consider this point in history the lowest we have ever experienced. The feeling spans the generations and cuts across party lines. According to Wright, 56 percent of seniors, 72 and older, believe this time is the lowest they can remember, despite being alive during Pearl Harbor and World War II. The same goes for Baby Boomers (57 percent), Gen Xers (61 percent) and Millennials (59 percent).

As a result of all this stress, people report sleepless nights, friction with friends and family, irritability and the need to constantly check the news.

Pendleton psychologist Connie Umphred isn’t surprised by the survey results.

“I have had people who started with me because of the results of the election,” she said. “Very, very upset because of the election.”

Even those who come to Umphred for other reasons such as family conflict, trouble at work or financial issues often bring up politics during therapy sessions.

“And it’s not just the political scene,” Umphred said. “It’s concerns about terrorists, global warming, climate change, other leaders and instability all around the globe. During 9/11, we felt pretty supported by most of the world. Now, the world is watching and they are not necessarily for us. That makes it more difficult to feel comfortable and safe.”

Counselor Katherine Walter, who grew up in Pendleton, said business is brisk for her and her colleagues at Catalyst Counseling in Seattle. Clients, both liberals and conservatives, often express anxiety and depression concerning the election and the current political scene. President Donald Trump’s aggressive and unpredictable style triggers anxiety in many clients.

“There’s a general worry about unpredictability,” Walter said.

Some are glued to the news.

“My colleagues and I are treating many more people for addiction to the news,” Walter said. “This means using addiction counseling to help people cut back on watching 10 or 12 hours of political TV per day, to the detriment of their relationships or other functioning.”

Requests for therapy appointments at the online therapy service Talkspace tripled for a time after the election.

“I’ve seen increasingly more people, of all ages, reaching out every day because they are struggling with anxiety and sometimes feeling hopeless about the future of our country and really their future as an individual, in regard to their freedom and safety,” said Talkspace therapist Jennifer K. Fuller.

Clients worry over changes to healthcare, travel bans, women’s issues and relationships. They find themselves walking on eggshells or quarreling about politics.

“Family and friends are fighting openly on social media, calling those with differing views idiots and severing relationships entirely,” said Talkspace therapist Jeanie Winstrom.

Joel Lane, president of the Oregon Counseling Association and a counselor educator at Portland State University, said counselors around the state report an influx of client anxiety, especially for minorities such as LGBT, people of color and immigrants.

“They are experiencing really significant anxiety,” Lane said. “The huge rise in hate crime is deeply troubling for a lot of people.”

Another recent survey offers an additional snapshot of our fears. In the survey by Chapman University, our top fear was corrupt government officials as it was in 2016, but this year 75 percent of us fear corrupt government officials versus 60 percent last year. The second most feared thing, Trumpcare, wasn’t even on last year’s list. Almost half of us worry about World War III (seventh on the list). We fret about medical bills and the environment (climate change, air and water pollution and plant and animal extinction) more than we did before.

Therapists encourage their clients to exercise, eat right, connect with others and empower themselves by volunteering for causes they support, communicating with politicians or even running for office. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

“You are not alone,” Lane said. “There are people out there who can help you.”

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Contact Kathy Aney at kaney@eastoregonian.com or call 541-966-0810.





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