Election 2020: Mental Health Innovation, Thought leadership and Tribal Connections

Election 2020: Mental Health Innovation, Thought leadership and Tribal Connections

Key words: Election 2020, Election Stress, Thought leadership, HNW, Mental Health, Addiction Treatment, Author, Therapist, Innovation, Fragile Power, Election Results, LMFT, Thought leader, Political Non Fiction, Media Expert

Today’s election was remarkable in several ways. The first was how it created an intense division in our nation on the grounds of partisan patriotism. The second, was how it became the first election of our modern age where people were concerned for their personal safety; and third, was how it created a bipartisan conversation around a host of mental health issues that became acute during the election cycle.

According to a widely discussed finding of the American Psychological Association, nearly 70% of Americans report suffering from significant stress as a result of the 2020 election. This statistic was consistent across all party affiliations with 76% of democrats, 67% of republicans and 64% of independents reporting acute levels of distress. Major publications including The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal published front page, top of fold articles on what was coined ‘election stress’. Broadcast news outlets including Fox News and CNN provided extensive coverage of the phenomenon.

Recommendations on how to cope with election stress abound. My favorite came from Newsweek and my local online community news source Telluride Inside…and Out. Strategies from these lists that I incorporated into my life included connecting with those I care about, journaling about my emotions and limiting my social media and news consumption.

As a therapist, I’ve been talking about the emotional fallout from this election nonstop with my patients. Everyone, from the unemployed London based creative to the hnw republican real estate magnate to the democratic professor are equally consumed by the simultaneous uncertainty of America’s future and what one of my patients described as “an apocalyptic demise of modern civilization.”

As an author, I’m constantly using the micro data I collect in my practice to make macro observations about our individual, relational and cultural well-being. The goal in my writing is to create an innovative and thoughtful community around mental health and addiction treatment and to figure out effective ways to utilize digital technologies in the provision of direct services to a global population in need of healing and hope.

As a human being struggling to find meaning and a sense of place in what often feels like a chaotic and unsafe world, I’m constantly practicing the therapeutic techniques I prescribe to my patients. Fortunately, I’m patinated enough to know that repair and expansion in my life and in the lives of my patients do not come from a silver bullet, but rather from an artful composition of intellectual, physical and relational interventions that include:

  1. The practice of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). This treatment modality enables us to acknowledge and move through our irrational and at times, melodramatic thoughts
  2. Techniques such as simple yoga poses and deep breathing exercises. These practices calm our central nervous system and enable us to regain control of our cognitive functioning; and,
  3. Mental exercises like counting from 1-20 several times. This simple exercise is highly effective in putting our executive functioning back on line.

I also know that treatment strategies are most effective when they’re implemented in supportive and nurturing interpersonal relationships. Simply put, people get better when they’re part of a community of others, united in achieving a shared goal and directed towards defeating a common enemy.

In one of my favorite books, Tribe, the author, Sebastian Junger, explains how since the dawn of humanity, humans have been pulled by a primitive drive to unite with other humans in tribal communities. These clannish relationships have enabled us to not just survive challenges to our existence, but also to adapt and evolve in to higher states of being.

For years, those of us in the mental health and addictive treatment community have witnessed the benefits of these tribal relationships through peer based therapeutic connections that include:

  1. Group therapy;
  2. Gender, economic and religious focused treatment programs;
  3. 12-Step groups; and,
  4. A legion of other peer support programs focused around domestic violence, anger management, grief, cancer and schizophrenia.

Today, under the threat of a breakdown in our personal and collective well-being, we are forming a national tribe, united in our concern for the mental health of our nation. CNN is as equally concerned as Fox News with the mental health of its viewers. Democrats are suffering in nearly equal numbers to their Republicans counterparts. Midwestern farmers feel as anxious as Wall Street executives; and, southern Baptists understand the weight of acute depression as equally as east coast Jews.

Tomorrow, as the dust begins to settle into the fissures of our country, I’m hopeful we can begin our cleanup by solidifying as a tribal community, united in a commitment to the mental health of all Americans. To do this we must lean further into the conversation around the stress caused by this election rather than sweeping it under the rug.

In the days and weeks ahead, we must allow ourselves time to process our disappointments and constrain our impulse to crow about our victories. In the months and years ahead, we must continue to develop our understanding of mental health and addictive disorders while creating and implementing innovative and effective mental health treatment interventions to treat them. In short, we must focus our patriotism on the simple and powerful words of the pledge of allegiance and reunite as a nation, liberated from mental health and addictive disorders and empowered by the honor and justice of our individual and collective well-being.

Published by

Paul L. Hokemeyer J.D., Ph.D. (Dr. Paul)

Status is online
Author at Fragile Power: Why Having Everything Is Never Enough (Hazelden, 2019)
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