by Maria Ann Roglieri –
Anxiety in teenagers is increasing and is currently a hot topic among school psychologists and parents. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety afflicts nearly 1/3 of adolescents and adults. Fortunately, it is treatable. The New York Times Magazine recently featured an article about anxiety (“Why Are More American Teenagers than Ever Suffering from Severe Anxiety?” October 16, 2017) and highlighted a residential treatment facility center, Mountain Valley in New Hampshire, that is one of an increasing number of programs for severely anxious teenagers.
But in order to get any kind of treatment, one must first recognize the signs of anxiety and learn how to get help. With this in mind, the Rivertown Parents Consortium (www.rivertownparents.com) and the Horseman PTA collaborated to present to parents and students a newly-released documentary on anxiety, its causes and effects, and what we can do about it. Angst: Raising Awareness around Anxiety was produced by Indie Flicks (www.indieflix.com) and features teenagers and Michael Phelps, five-time Olympic champion swimmer, talking about their experiences with anxiety. It also features healthcare professionals and teachers giving tips on how to help students with anxiety.
The film was presented during the day to seventh and eighth graders of Sleepy Hollow Middle School (SHMS) with a Q&A led by the principal, Joshua Whitman. Relates Dr. Maritza Cifre-Kerekes, SHMS psychologist, “During the film our students were very attentive and engaged, indicating that they connected with the film on any number of levels. The prevalence of anxiety among our youth seems to be on the rise. Clearly, it’s difficult to not know someone who is going through this struggle. The documentary did a wonderful job of providing a glimpse into the many layers of ‘angst’ today’s youngsters experience. As a result, the film made important strides towards destigmatizing anxiety while promoting more meaningful and helpful conversations about this condition.” The film was also later shown to as many students in Sleepy Hollow High School as scheduling would permit.
The evening presentation to adults and students at Sleepy Hollow High School drew a crowd of more than 100 people and was followed by a Q&A led by Scott Dorn, Director of Pupil/Personnel Services at TUFSD, and Dr. Carolyn Cullen, a psychotherapist in private practice. Parents in the district learned a great deal: Related Gina Lamparella, “Anxiety disorder was something I knew little about before seeing Angst. It turns out my kids were more educated about it than I was. In the film, my kids recognized the struggles that many of their peers go through. I was glad to have the opportunity to talk to them about the film, as well as their own thoughts and experiences. Any time you can get your kids to open up about what is going on in school is a win. I look forward to more programs like this one.”
Another parent in the district, Jen Povman, commented, “The film was enlightening in its inclusion of the physiological components of anxiety and the brain pathways involved. By sharing interviews with a wide range of young people, the film candidly revealed the struggles but also successful strategies young people have adopted to cope–—from using exposure therapy to redirecting thinking in the moment with quick, simple tasks or breaks. The film also emphasized how important it is to reach out and communicate what is going on, for oneself or on behalf of others. Thank you Rivertown Parents and Horseman PTA for presenting this powerful piece.”
For more information about anxiety and resources for dealing with it, go to the website of The American Association of Anxiety and Depression at https://adaa.org/living-with-anxiety/college-students/resources.