SGA’s Mental Health Ad Hoc Committee discusses ways to cope with election-related stress


Bianca Cseke | The DePaulia

DePaul University Lincoln Park campus.

DePaul’s Student Government Association’s Mental Health Ad Hoc Committee hosted a panel titled, “Self-Care for Political Stress and Anxiety” on Monday via Facebook Live addressing ways for students to handle election-related stress and anxiety. 

 The panelists included Shannon Suffoletto, the director of Health, Promotion and Wellness, Arielle Polster, a graduate assistant for the Office of Student Involvement and part of the clinical mental health counseling program, Leslie Watland, the assistant dean of students at DePaul, and members of SGA’s Mental Health Ad Hoc Committee. 

 Francesca La Rocca, the temporary chair of the committee and SGA’s senator for transfer students, began the discussion asking the panelists about what makes this election stand out.  

 Suffoletto explained how a colleague described this time as “just the perfect storm” citing issues that people can and can’t control as creating additional stress. 

 “The pandemic has added a lot of out of controlness to our lives,” Suffoletto said. “It’s very hard and amplifies so much of what was already hard. Now, the election is layered on top of that. With that as Leslie [Watland] is talking about, there are pieces we can control with voting and things like that and a lot of the things that you all as students are doing, I totally agree with Leslie on that giving me inspiration and hope and all of the things to carry on this important work.” 

 For Polster, this election season stands out given the state of the country under a global pandemic and the social unrest across the country. 

 “I feel like for me what really makes this election season stand out is the… context that we are living in [with] Covid and everybody being stuck at home — the protests and our lives have just changed so drastically so fast and it feels like there is so much on the line with this election… it’s definitely scary and stressful,” Polster said.  

 La Rocca then discussed some of the emotions individuals have experienced with election related stress and anxiety, specifically anger and frustration. In addition, she asked the panelists about the emotions they have experienced and how they find ways to cope with it. 

 Misael Alejandre, a member of the committee and SGA’s chief of staff, explained how certain events that have transpired since the summer, particularly those pertaining to the Supreme Court, have created stress for him as they affect people close to him. Alejandre said he copes with these anxieties by remembering those that have helped pave the way for him. 

 “When it comes to things like being a part of the LGBTQ community or being a product of immigration, I like to look at things that have been accomplished by so many wonderful people — a part of those communities that have allowed me to stand where I am now,” Alejandre said. “I think that during times like these as much as I try to get rid of that stress, that stress will always be there even if it’s 10 percent compared to 80 or 90 percent.” 

 Alejandre added that he checks in with those close to him as a way of supporting one another during this election season.  

 “We don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow, we don’t know what’s going to happen the next month or so, and so I just want to ensure that whatever does happen — even though I’m very stressed and there’s not much that I can do to get rid of that stress — if I could do the same for someone else and help them with their stress that remains a huge accomplishment,” Alejandre said. 

 Some of the frustrations for La Rocca comes from the news but also from interpersonal relationships.  

 “I think something special about this election is that people are definitely much more out and loud about their opinions and I think that that has caused a lot of strain on certain relationships amongst… distant family [and] relatives, so that can be really difficult because you try to tackle those questions and those conversations, and I think that can be really frustrating,” La Rocca said. 

 Afterwards, La Rocca moved the discussion towards media consumption asking the panelists about what media outlets they get their news from. 

 Watland said she gets her news from The New York Times and their podcast called The Daily, along with NPR. Watland recognized that many of her sources for obtaining the news are more moderate to progressive but emphasized the importance of maintaining a balance of new sources.  

 “I think it’s important to get a balance of where you’re getting your news, and there’s definitely different places that you can look at to see if the type of news you are looking at is more progressive or conservative or moderate, and I think it’s important to have that media literacy on where you’re getting your news,” Watland said.  

 Marcus Robertson, a member of the committee and SGA’s executive vice president of student affairs, said he is constantly consuming the news as he is a journalism major. Robertson added that he checks news regarding international events and enjoys investigative journalism.  

 He also receives some of his news from journalists and publications on Twitter and discussed a term called “doom scrolling,” which he described as reading an article on Twitter that “scares you” and continuing to scroll through Twitter looking for more gloomy stories. 

 “Now that I’ve recognized that, I try to limit it,” Roberston said. “Once I’m aimlessly scrolling on Twitter and not actively doing something with a purpose… I put my phone down, shut it and think about what I’m thinking about [and] think about what I’m doing.” 

 La Rocca ended the discussion by asking some of the panelists about mental health resources available to support students at DePaul after the election, and resources in the greater Chicago area that allows students to continue to get involved in their community. Some of those resources include University Counseling Services, and Health, Promotion and Wellness which offer individual support and programs such as group counseling, telereach, outreach and health education. 

 SGA will hold two post-election discussions: one on Nov. 5 at 3 p.m. and the other on Nov. 9 at 5 p.m.