During the 80-minute seminar class time on Wednesday, October 24, students viewed a documentary titled Angst. The movie addressed the important issue of general anxiety and anxiety disorders, especially its prevalence in children and teenagers. The movie showcased several young people with anxiety disorders, along with parents and anxiety specialists. The students described how anxiety feels to them and what they do to help cope with their everyday struggles.
Administrators hoped that showing the film to all students would increase awareness and reduce the stigma around anxiety disorders and mental health issues as a whole. Many students had positive responses to the film.
The fact that all students, staff and administration, and some parents watched the movie was important. If the film had been optional, it is possible that people who wanted to watch it would not follow through due to fear of embarrassment. Showing it to the entire student body remedied the problem. “It is a good way to push everyone, whether they are scared [of putting themselves out there] or not, to watch,” said Jr. Olivia Ryzenga.
It was also essential that the teachers, who already watched the movie ahead of time, took the seminar seriously. “It helped the students understand that it was a big deal, so they [students] took it seriously as well,” said Sr. Jake Holstege. People took the message to heart.
It is easy to say that people who have anxiety and people who do not all benefited from watching the movie. Students now can show more empathy to peers who they see are struggling. “It made me want to always be there for people,” said Jr. RaeAnna Gonzales, “You can’t tell who struggles with anxiety.” The film gave students allowed students to understand what anxiety may look like in the classroom. “It helped me be more patient with people who are struggling in class . . . with things that scare them,” said Sr. Jireh Gibson. Angst helped people realize that anxiety is not something one can control.
Students may even be able to take some strategies discussed in the film and use them to help others or themselves. “There are a lot of breathing exercises that can help and calm almost anyone down,” said Sr. Abbi Pilarski. “If I see someone having an anxiety attack, I can tell them to breathe with me. It is something I use to calm myself down as well.”
As for those who have anxiety or who have struggled in the past, Angst was a way to show them that they are not alone, because sometimes that is half the battle. “I suffered from anxiety in the past and many things hit close to home for me,” said Ryzenga, “It was good to hear that you are not the only one in that situation.”
Anxiety disorders are the most commonly diagnosed mental disorder, yet it is still seen as a taboo topic. Angst achieved the goal of making the topic less stigmatized. It was able to start the conversation about anxiety without the feeling of being the odd one out.
It is crucial that the West Ottawa community are informed about anxiety. It is so common, yet so commonly misunderstood. The showing of Angst is certainly a step in the correct direction for West Ottawa to break the stigma of mental illness.