U-M students, leadership prep for mounting mental health strain ahead of election
University of Michigan students and leadership are preparing support services for the community as the turbulent election cycle comes to a close.
Stress over the results of the election combined with ongoing issues like the COVID-19 pandemic and systemic racism have students on campus concerned as Tuesday nears. More than two-thirds of adults have reported the election being a significant source of stress in their lives, an increase from just over half of adults polled in 2016, according to a study from the American Psychological Association.
In an email to The Daily, University spokesperson Rick Fitzegerald said the school has prepared for Election Day on campus by inviting speakers to address the importance of voting. He noted how the satellite clerk’s office at the University of Michigan Museum of Art — where students can register to vote and cast their ballots up until 8 p.m. on Tuesday — has made voting more accessible.
What the University is offering
The 2016 election left many students on campus rattled, with University President Mark Schlissel and other community members voicing concern at a vigil on the Diag.
In preparation for the campus climate after Tuesday’s election, the University has created a Campus Climate Support group. In addition, resources will be available for students after the presidential election through Counseling and Psychological Services, Wolverine Support Network and Michigan Medicine. University faculty will have access to consultation and support groups as well.
“Election cycles by their nature can be very stressful times,” Fitzgerald wrote. “A fiercely contested presidential election during a pandemic, when some have questioned the democratic process itself, is creating high levels of anxiety for many members of our community.”
LSA sophomore Nick Schuler, vice president of the University’s chapter of College Republicans, said he would not need to use campus resources after the election, but recognizes that the services are there for those who need it.
“I do think that if you have to go see a therapist if Trump wins, then that’s a little out there,” Schuler said. “People have their rights and I guess if it helps you, go for it but it’s definitely not something I would do.”
LSA junior Arya Kale said counseling services are valuable after an emotional event like a presidential election.
“Mental health is important,” Kale said. “And judging from the conversations I’ve had with my friends, people are realizing it’s importance even more now than we were before. CAPS is a great service and it’s really nice to have that available.”
CAPS has faced criticism for its long wait times and lack of accessibility, inspiring students to create their own resources to focus on mental health. As of press time, the next available date for an initial consultation is Nov. 30.
In terms of safety after the election, the University will have the Division of Public Safety and Security send alerts to students and make themselves available for students to express their concerns, according to Fitzgerald.
“The university is always on alert for Election Day and the possibility of protests or other disturbances,” Fitzgerald wrote. “It’s clear we are headed toward a record turnout this year and that requires added attention from all of us.”
During the weekly Friday Campus COVID-19 briefing, Public Policy Dean Michael Barr said University organizations are working with officials at the local, state and federal level.
“Some of you are more worried about safety broadly during the election,” Barr said. “There are daily meetings, incident response teams and University protocols. The University will continue to communicate with the whole campus about staying safe.”
Election heightens stress for some, but not others
Gina Liu, LSA sophomore and United Asian American Organization advocacy chair, is coordinating an Election Day care package that students can pick up on campus. Liu said she wants to support students with material items as a distraction.
“I think there is fear around the election, whether or not you actively participate in it,” Liu said. “With the election care package, we just want to have a no-strings-attached model and make sure people have extra support through material items.”
Liu said she will volunteering as a diversion from the anxiety that comes with a presidential election.
“I’ve been relying on those Election Day tasks, but definitely putting off actually dealing with the results of the election,” Liu said. “People are also saying it’s not going to be 100 percent on the first day and that would definitely cause more anxiety for me and a lot of other people.”
Business sophomore Taylor Bielefeld, a member of Students for Biden, noted that increased mail-in voting could delay final results.
“We have this natural predisposition where we think Election Day is one day and we know the night of,” Bielefeld said. “Now more than ever, this is not true. This is election season … We just have to perservere through that and not expect an immediate result.”
Business freshman Nick Rea, who is involved with Students for Biden and the One Campaign Michigan, said he’s been trying to avoid “obsessively checking” polls and worrying about the results. Instead, Rea said he’s turning to physical outlets to deal with his anxiety.
One coping mechanism Rea plans on using: purchasing a piñata of President Donald Trump’s head to take out his emotions on.
“It will give me something to channel my stress out because I’ll need something to keep my mind off of a lot of the results because I know there’s a lot of states that won’t even start counting their votes until after polls close or Wednesday,” Rea said.
While Kale expressed concern about the outcome of the election, he said having a community with his friends and housemates has helped him out during the stressful season of an election.
“It’s helpful to form a community within the place that I’m living in,” Kale said. “My housemates, we’ve been keeping tabs on what’s been happening politically, the best way to stay safe and how to limit our interactions outside. It’s been helpful forming a small, little group. That way we’re not going insane by ourselves.”
Other students, however, say they don’t expect the election to upset them. Though Schuler is advocating for the Republican candidates on the ballot and is involved with politics on campus, he said the outcome of the election will not affect him afterward.
“I’m not gonna react too strongly either way,” Schuler said. “Whoever is the president at the current time doesn’t define my life as it appears to for a lot of people. It’s obviously very important, but I don’t let it define my life or define my mood.”
Kale emphasized that people experience elections differently.
“I know people have been dealing with it in different ways,” Kale said. “We’ve been talking about it a lot and I guess that’s the only way to get through this together because we can’t fight alone.”
Daily Staff Reporter Jasmin Lee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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