SANTA ANA (CBSLA) — It's election day, and volunteers at a confidential and free telephone service funded by the Orange County Health Care Agency are preparing for a spike in calls.
"Anxiety is through the roof," Dr. Mariam Harris, OC WarmLine director, said.
Just last month, call volume doubled at the WarmLine with 8,400 people calling in for help. Harris has beefed up her staff 24 hours per day, because she said election anxiety is real — and her volunteers experienced it in the last presidential election.
"A couple days later, oh my goodness, we did not anticipate the amount of anguish," she said.
And, on this Election Day, people across America are on edge. In fact, one poll found that 55% of people surveyed expected Tuesday to be the most stressful day of their lives.
"People are feeling really desperate right now," Dr. Jessica Borelli, associate professor at UC Irvine and family therapist, said. "I've seen a tremendous amount of election anxiety. People are extremely anxious about the turmoil the world is about to face and about what this means for them."
In the last eight months, Americans have endured a pandemic, job loss, mass civil unrest, looting, boarded up businesses and now a contentious election.
"It's trauma upon trauma upon trauma, and we are all at a heightened state of anxiety," Borelli said. "And now we're about to have this kind of national reckoning."
Thomas Bailes, a physician assistant at Harbor Psychiatry and Mental Health in Newport Beach said, more than COVID-19, the election has been the number one stressor for patients.
"A lot of people are having anxiety that when the election is already over they're going to continue to have problems moving forward, so they don't really see this as ending when the election ends," he said.
Borelli said people should seek professional help when their anxiety begins affect their primary relationships and their work or they turn to substances to find peace.
Orange County residents in need of support can call or text the WarmLine 24 hours per day, seven days per week at 714-991-6412. Those in need of mental health support who do not live in OC can call the National Alliance on Mental Illness hotline at 888-950-6264.
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