In the wake of some massive world events, like The United States’ election of Donald Trump, Brexit and the climate crisis, researchers are beginning to explore how these political developments are impacting our mental health.
Is it really possible for Donald Trump, a complete stranger albeit a public figure, to cause “toxic stress” in the lives of American citizens? Is eco-anxiety real? And what about that guy who experienced the first “Brexit-induced psychosis?”
The ultimate question here is: do these psychological terms describing our response to events have any real merit?
Donald Trump Causing ‘Toxic Stress’ In The US
According to US academics, Dominic Sisti & Cynthia Baum-Baicker, those left stooped by Trump’s election “might now be experiencing a form of toxic stress.” Apparently, such stress may be heightened by the “belligerent, unpredictable, and sometimes bizarre behaviour of the President himself.”
‘Toxic stress’ is defined by prolonged exposure to stressful situations. According to these professors, the President’s ever-changing and random implementation of policies relating to travel, immigration, healthcare, small business and investment markets “leaves millions of people wondering what is next.”
But this duo of professors takes things further by stating that Trump may have the capacity to gaslight the public. They describe his denial of saying and doing things as “a common form of abuse sometimes called gaslighting.” They also highlight how the US’ Crisis Text Line, a support service for those contemplating suicide, experienced a dramatic spike in traffic a week after the election.
Climate Change Causing ‘Eco-Anxiety’ Across The World
‘Climate anxiety’ or ‘Eco-Anxiety’ are terms that have emerged out of our growing awareness of the climate crisis. In fact, in 2017, the first full report into mental health and climate change was published by the American Psychology Association (APA).
According to the journal, the term refers to “feelings of loss and fear as species go extinct, seas rise above creature’s habitats and plant life is ruined by climate disasters.” To cope with ‘Eco-Anxiety’ the researchers suggest fostering optimism, active coping skills, practices that provide a sense of meaning and staying connected to friends and family.
The Brexit Causing A ‘Psychotic Break’ In The UK
It’s a wild thought to have: the uncertainty perpetuated by the UK’s departure from the EU has led to one man’s mental breakdown but that’s exactly what’s happened.
A British man has experienced the first-ever diagnosed case of Brexit-induced psychosis, according to the British Medical Journal (BMJ). The man in his 40s was brought to the emergency room three weeks after the Brexit referendum in 2016. During psychosis, he attempted burrowing through the hospital floor. His wife attests that his symptoms began post-referendum. He also had no history of mental illness and wasn’t abusing alcohol or drugs.
“Political events can be a source of significant psychological stress,” said Dr Mohammad Zia Ul Haq Katshu, who treated the man and contributed to the BMJ report on the episode.
Media attention towards phrases such as ‘eco-anxiety’ and ‘toxic stress’ can make it feel like these phenomena are pervasive and imminent. But the reality is that not enough time has passed since these world occurrences and there really hasn’t been enough research to verify the prevalence of these psychological experiences.
One thing’s for sure: if the world continues on its reckless path, perhaps terms like these will become quite recognised side-effects of our circumstances and I don’t think anyone’s ready for that.