USC Student Health is offering a new counseling series called “Election Stress Workshops” that are available to all students Oct. 26 through Nov. 9.
With the upcoming election only eight days away, tension and stress have risen significantly among USC students. Zoom fatigue, heavy loads of schoolwork and COVID-19 have only contributed to elections-related stress in one of the most divisive elections in history.
In a survey conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of the American Psychological Association, 68% of American adults responded saying that this year’s election is a “significant source of stress” in their lives, a 16% increase from the 2016 election with 52% of Americans saying that the election was a “somewhat significant source of stress” for them.
Tessa Taylor, a junior majoring in theatre said that going through this election remotely contributes a significant amount of stress because people aren’t able to have political conversations with one another.
“You’re not getting that common camaraderie with other people and being able to just kind of talk it out,” she said.
The workshops started today and are being conducted on Mondays at noon and Thursdays at 5 p.m. — interested students can sign up through the student health portal. USC also has individual therapy sessions, where students can select therapists who self-identity from a specific community.
“[It’s about] decreasing the stigma and the barriers and increasing accessibility,” Dr. Kelly Greco, assistant director of Outreach and Prevention Services, said. “That’s what we want to be able to help serve everyone and be really inclusive in terms of mental health services.”
Students can take as many workshops as they want. Every day there are various sessions that focus on coping skills and creating community. Dr. Greco said that the goal of the sessions is to “have discussions about how to thrive.”
“That sense of belonging is what brings us together,” Dr. Greco said. “I hope students can walk away feeling that...they’re going to know how to manage their stress.”
Dr. Edden Agonafer, clinical psychologist and faculty of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, said that an increasing trend among colleges is to put on virtual programs to support students locally, nationally and internationally.
“This really allows us...to get together to really help one another, to learn from each other as to how to cope with stressors,” Agonafer said.
Bella Patrick, a sophomore majoring in public relations, said actually voting helped with her stress because she knew she was doing her part. She used social media and other voting sites to educate herself on “how the world has evolved for this election.”
“I do think that this election puts a lot of people’s lives on the line and their livelihood,” Patrick said. “I think it’s really important that we all use our right to vote and share how we want our country to be run.”
Honor Campbell, a sophomore majoring in creative writing, said she was surprised that classes aren’t cancelled on Election Day. Although she recognizes that mail-in voting has always been an option, she still thinks that it’s important for people to vote in-person if they want to.
“It would be really terrible if someone thinks that they can’t go vote because they have class,” Campbell said. “Some people might have tests or quizzes or something on that day. I think that would be really stressful.”
Despite the constant stress caused by this year’s election, Patrick said that seeing her generation active in the political process makes her optimistic.
“Even throughout USC, a lot of people are politically engaging and exercising their right to vote, which is super exciting,” Patrick said. “[It] definitely makes me much more hopeful than last election.”