US elections: How do depression, anxiety influence voter turnout?

Jesse Culwell does not plan on voting come November. It is not that the 25-year-old does not care about politics in the United States: “I’m actually a very political person,” Culwell said. But he worries that participating in an election cycle he finds “disheartening” may have a detrimental effect on his mental health.

Culwell has struggled with depression for a while, he said, and when the coronavirus pandemic hit, his mental health challenges only grew worse.

“I would go days without eating, I would lay in bed all day,” he added. “I never thought once to get up, for 16-plus hours. I was trapped in my mind and I wanted to die, I pushed people I loved out [of] my life.” So when the election began to roll around, “I just really couldn’t care,” he explained.

Culwell has since focused his attention on overcoming his mental health challenges by returning to his love of writing, exercising and finding other hobbies. But he also recognises that his depression may stem “from always putting other things and people above” himself and “politics are no different”.

Culwell is one of more than 16 million people in the United States whom the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says experiences depression each year. But that number does not account for the increased number of people experiencing depression as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and its effects.

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