Your Therapist Needs To Know Politics. It’s Messing Up Your Brain

The night of the election, my roommate came home in a snazzy outfit and carrying a bottle of champagne. ‘Gotta look nice for my girl,’ she said, referring to Hillary Clinton.

The next day, we were all wrecks. The champagne sat in our fridge for months. Nobody wanted to touch it. My roommate, Olivia, 24, went to pick up a prescription from the pharmacy. They told her there had been a mistake and they wouldn’t have it for a few days.

“You picked the wrong day to fuck up my anti-depressant,” she told them, livid.

She wasn’t wrong.

A recent report shows that Trump’s election has taken a toll on our mental well-being. And researchers believe our present political climate will worsen mental health problems for those in target groups like immigrants and people of color.

Harvard professor David R. Williams and clinical fellow Dr. Morgan M. Medlock predicts worsening trends in mental health as hostility toward stigmatized groups increases. Williams urges healthcare providers to pay special attention to the mental damage their patients experience.

“The levels of stress between the election and now are unprecedented,” says Williams.

Since the election, we’ve seen attacks on reproductive health, attacks on immigration rights, attacks on racial minorities and Muslims both here and abroad. America is not well and Americans are hurting.

“It all feels so personal,” says Daniel, 25. “Like we’ve lost humanity. But how do I explain that to my therapist?”

Williams is urging health care providers to be attuned to their patients’ mental health needs. The stigma attached to mental illness means that patients are not likely to “volunteer” their emotional stress, says Williams. Mental health care providers need to work alongside activists, he says, because the two are linked.

This is particularly true for POC and other marginalized groups.

“This election killed hope, says Lola, 35, a sex educator and activist. She says Obama’s tenure “quieted a lot of the bullshit” because his popularity made racism and bigotry essentially uncool, at least on the surface. Now, with Trump and the Republican Congress, that “bullshit” is resurfacing and the people who espouse it are family and friends.

Lola says she’s lost lifelong friends and family because she’s outspoken about police violence.

“I was there when their grandchildren were born,” she says. Now, those same people are barring her from the kids’ birthdays or asking her husband to “speak with her.”

“Why does it hurt you to hear that I’m hurting?” she asks. She says this election has snatched away safe spaces to discuss her experience as a queer black woman in an inhospitable country.

This is what Williams and Medlock predicted. They refer to things like the travel ban and Trump’s blatant Islamophobia, which encourages racist activism and violence among his supporters. But it’s also the hostility that can come from people Lola thought were on her side.

“It’s really hard when you realize the life you’ve built is not as sturdy as you thought it was,” she says. “That has happened to a lot of people. It’s still happening.”