Election depression?

Mental health professional advises: 'turn off the news'

Friday, November 5, 2004

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Caterina Benalcázar not exactly enjoying her time with the Times at Lawrence coffee shop La Prima Tazza.

Got the balloting blues? The Democratic Doldrums? Election depression?

No surprise. The rush of political energy and adrenaline has come to a screeching halt now that an intense yearlong presidential election campaign is over - with President Bush winning another four years in office.

"There's been such anticipation, such expectation and hope and fear and all of those things, that I think you'll see a general decline," said Tom Bates, who oversees adult outpatient services at Bert Nash Mental Health Center in Lawrence, "probably even a depression for some people, kind of the after-excitement let-down."

But Bates has a suggested cure: Turn away from the news and remember there's more to life than politics.

"Probably turn off the television for awhile," he said. "You're going to wake up next to the same partner, you're going to take your kids to school, fix lunch, those kinds of things, you're going to work."

There could be as many as 27,000 cranky people in Lawrence and Douglas County this week.

That's how many folks voted for John Kerry in Tuesday's presidential election - one of only two Kansas counties to support the Democrat.

"I'm sad," Lawrence Democratic activist Kathy Greenlee said yesterday, later adding: "I wish the sun had come out today."

The county's nearly 20,000 supporters of President Bush feel better, but even they're tuckered out from a yearlong election campaign that was one of the most intense in memory.

"I've always found that a good bottle of scotch is good in that regard, preferably something with a name you can't pronounce that's about 15 years old," said Chris Miller, chairman of the Douglas County GOP. "But I'll probably just go to sleep."

Lawrence Democratic activist

Reactions were less muted at popular Lawrence Web sites devoted to politics.

"Morons. We're a nation of morons," 'gccs14r' posted to the forum at Larryville.com.

"Yea!!!! Bush wins and conservative values are again voted into office," 'Jimmy Mistretta' posted. "I am very proud to be an American. The nation responded in spite of the liberal media's stranglehold on the news. Yes America we really did rock the vote."

Bates, the mental-health professional, had a response to all the hyperventilating.

"People," he said, "just need to calm down a bit."

But he said Bert Nash saw a rise in people seeking help during the last few months as the election campaign turned fierce.

"It's really hard to know cause-and-effect," he said. "Whether or not that's related to the election is difficult to tell."

Soon, he said, people will get over this election.

"I think we'll probably see a big of a spike in the anxiety, but then I think it will drop off pretty dramatically," Bates said. "Especially since people will probably recognize that, at least in the short run, nothing has changed.