Let’s Talk About Anxiety

Anxiety in teens and children is increasingly common, and it’s the most prevalent mental health diagnosis among adolescents in the U.S. In spite of that, it’s rarely discussed openly in our community, which largely continues to stigmatize mental health issues. An upcoming screening of a powerful documentary intends to jumpstart a much-needed conversation about anxiety and normalize this common struggle.

On Tuesday evening, October 16, the Parent School Partnership of Yeshivat Noam will be hosting a community-wide screening of the compelling IndieFlix documentary “Angst: Raising Awareness Around Anxiety.” This film is a must-see for parents, educators and others who care for children or teens with anxiety. The film’s goal is to help viewers identify and understand the symptoms of anxiety and encourage them to reach out for help; to destigmatize, normalize and offer hope.

“Angst” engagingly and thoughtfully explores anxiety, its causes and effects and ways of dealing with it. The film features candid interviews with kids and teens who suffer, or have suffered, from anxiety, and what they’ve learned about it. “Angst” includes commentary from mental health professionals, and the screening next week will be followed by a live panel of experts who will field questions and further the conversation.

Many individuals experience an anxiety disorder, but particularly in communities that don’t discuss the problem, those who suffer often feel like their situation is rare or unique. According to the National Institutes of Mental Health, the prevalence of any anxiety disorder (including generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and specific phobias) in adolescents in the U.S. is 31.9 percent. That means this is an important, if not pressing, topic for many families, including those in our community.

According to Dr. John Duffy, clinical psychologist and best-selling parenting author, “The teenagers in the film describe their suffering with stunning openness, grace and courage…the filmmakers were able to capture what so many of my young clients are suffering in these complicated days: the bullying, perfectionism, panic, obsession, and too often, hopelessness…. Whether you are a teenager, parent, educator or a mental health professional, you simply need to see this movie, and soon. And every school needs to screen this film. It’s that important.”

Chani Oshinsky, a Teaneck resident who saw the film at a private screening this spring, found it eye-opening. “‘Angst’ really helps educate adults so they can validate their children’s or students’ struggles and help them, instead of dismissing or misunderstanding them,” she says.

Notes Dr. Jerry Bubrick, senior director of the Child Mind Center, “In our world there is a stigma attached to mental health disorders. People see anxiety as a personal failing rather than a medical condition; they see it as something to be ashamed of, rather than something to be treated. In reality, anxiety is universal. It doesn’t discriminate—and it’s very treatable. We just need to acknowledge it and talk openly first.”

The firsthand accounts of kids and teens in the film describing their experiences tend to strike a chord with viewers, many of whom have seen their children or students struggle similarly. The film and expert panel on Tuesday will address some of the different ways that anxiety presents in children, which can often be misunderstood by adults, including parents and educators.

Loretta Paley, co-chair of Yeshivat Noam’s Parent-School Partnership, was instrumental in arranging the upcoming screening after she saw the film last year. “I feel that it’s so critical for everyone in our community to see this film, to stop stigmatizing these kids, and to finally understand what they’re going through so we can help them. There needs to be a big change in how we view mental health concerns, and we’re hoping that ‘Angst’ contributes to that change.”

The film and expert panel will take place at Yeshivat Noam Middle School on Tuesday, October 16, at 8 p.m. Admission is free and the event is open to the community. “Angst” is recommended for teens and adults but may be too intense for younger viewers. For questions, please email [email protected]

By Talia Marmon, Ph.D.

Dr. Talia Marmon is a clinical psychologist.