Election 2016

Students were more stressed and anxious after the election, Counseling Center director says

Moriah Ratner | Staff Photographer

Some students at Syracuse University have expressed concern about their safety and that of their friends and peers. Since Donald Trump’s win hate crime reports have spiked, according to CBS News.

UPDATED: Nov. 29 at 8:40 p.m.

President-elect Donald Trump swept up the nation in an upset this November, taking the Midwest and swing states by storm. With his surprise victory came a toll on mental health across the country.

Some students at Syracuse University have been concerned with Trump’s rhetoric targeting minorities.

Cory Wallack, director of the Counseling Center at SU, said elections typically create feelings of anxiety or stress, regardless of political affiliation. The 2016 election heightened those usual emotions of uneasiness for people of backgrounds Trump’s campaign promises targeted, he said.

“This election cycle has not been typical, though, as there has been considerable hurtful, frightening, threatening and aggressive rhetoric and behaviors that exceeds that which we have seen in recent presidential elections,” Wallack said.

The effect on college students is consistent with the effect on the rest of the nation, Wallack said.

On SU’s campus, Wallack said he saw higher levels of stress, anxiety and tension among students than usual. He said the election cycle is partially responsible for the change in campus climate.

Wing Luck Chin, a sophomore in the College of Visual and Performing Arts, said his identity as an openly gay student who is Asian was a reason why he sought counseling from the Counseling Center after the election. He said the therapists helped him to vent about his problems with the election results and their ramifications.

“Some days I couldn’t believe this was happening,” Luck Chin said. “I feel very insecure about my safety as an Asian person.”

Luck Chin wasn’t happy with either of the major party candidates running this year, reflecting an attitude held by one in four Americans, according to a Gallup poll from earlier this year. However, Luck Chin had particular reservations toward Trump because of the president-elect’s inflammatory comments about people of color.

“Everyone thought he was just a huge joke,” Luck Chin said. “Somehow he was on the ballot. I don’t understand how that happened.”

He added that he wasn’t as invested in politics as his peers were during the election season, but he experienced anxiety throughout the year and a half-long election campaign.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s call center received more than twice the number of calls it usually did the night of the election, according to CNN. Mother Jones reported a suicide prevention hotline for transgender people received five times more calls than usual on election night.

Throughout the election cycle, most predictions declared Hillary Clinton the winner. Some, including SU student Jez Sabaduquia, believed those predictions.

Sabaduquia, a junior information management and technology major, said the election season and its results were surprising, considering that most signs pointed to Clinton. He is currently taking a class on elections and social media and said all of their research alluded to Clinton’s win.

Watching the results unfold, Sabaduquia’s stress levels rose. The day after the election, he said the weather reflected his mood: dark and gloomy.

“It was stressful to live through it,” he said.

Other students said their concerns laid with the safety of their friends and peers. After Trump’s win, the number of hate crimes reported spiked, with more than 700 taking place in the 7 days following the election, per CBS News.

“Personally, as a white, straight male, it doesn’t affect me as much as it would my friends,” said Ryan Carmody, a sophomore sound recording technology major. “I’m more concerned about the safety and well-being of my friends that are not as white, straight or male as I am.”

Lauren Mulcahy, a sophomore psychology and forensic sciences double major, said a great deal of her fear stemmed from Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric. But they subsided in the past few weeks.

“Seeing him gain popularity was difficult and seeing him win in an upset when nobody expected him to legitimately take the presidency was difficult, so this has definitely been a stressful thing,” Mulcahy said.

Mulcahy found the first days after the election to be the most difficult. In the past few weeks, the idea of President Trump became normalized and didn’t affect her as much, she said.

She said she had a lot of feelings of fear surrounding the election, but it was not the direct source of any feelings of depression or anxiety.

CORRECTION: In a previous version of this article, Wing Luck Chin’s identity as a Syracuse University was misstated. Luck Chin is a sophomore in the College of Visual and Performing Arts who identifies as Asian and is openly gay. The Daily Orange regrets this error.


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