Vermont Academy shines the light on anxiety with must-see documentary

SAXTONS RIVER, Vt. – On Oct. 18 at 7:30 p.m., Vermont Academy will hold a special screening of the documentary at the Nita Choukas Theater in its Horowitz Performing Arts Center to create a dialogue between parents, children, community leaders, and experts. The event will feature a viewing of the 56-minute film, followed by an informative discussion led by a panel of local health experts.

October is widely becoming known as a month devoted to discussion of mental health issues. The first week of October is National Mental Illness Awareness Week, and Oct. 10 is World Mental Health Day. This screening extends the discussion of these topics further into the month, and it focuses on adolescents when students nationwide are experiencing more issues related to anxiety.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine both recently released reports that include “pressure to excel” as a critical environmental factor that is harming adolescent well-being. External pressures affect our students every day, even in activities that used to provide stress relief, like music and sports. As a group, high-achieving students can be at a much greater risk for anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and risky behaviors.

Through candid interviews, the film’s producers tell the stories of many students who discuss their anxiety and its impacts on their lives and relationships, as well as how these students have found solutions and hope. The film also includes a special interview with Michael Phelps, one of the greatest athletes of all-time who is now focusing his energy on mental health advocacy. In addition, the documentary provides discussions with mental health experts about the causes of anxiety and its sociological effects, along with the help, resources, and tools available to address the condition.

Part of the beauty of this film is the openness of the children and young adults featured; for some of them, the “Angst” project marks the first time they are publicly sharing their experiences with anxiety. While “Angst” documents the struggles some people have with anxiety, it also reveals their hope for the future. Noah, a teenager in the film, describes, “Anxiety doesn’t define me. It’s not just a curse; it also gives me strength.”

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health challenge in the U.S., impacting 54% of women and 46% of men, with age 7 being the median age of onset, according to the World Health Organization. While anxiety disorders are highly treatable, only one-third of those suffering receive treatment. Everyone involved in the development of “Angst” has a personal experience with anxiety – from the producers to the interviewees.

“The conversation surrounding mental health really hits home for me,” said Michael Phelps. “Many people don’t understand how debilitating mental illness truly can be, and even more than that, how common it is, yet people are afraid to have the serious discussions about it. I welcomed the opportunity to be a part of ‘Angst’ to further the dialogue around mental health and to help people understand the impact anxiety has on our mental state and encourage people, especially kids, to ask for help.”

Tickets are available now and seating is limited. Tickets are available online in advance at www.showclix.com/event/angst-vermont-academy.

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