Anxiety is the most common psychiatric disorder among children, but most kids aren’t getting treatment, according to a report from the Child Mind Institute. A new film called Angst: Raising Awareness Around Anxiety from the Seattle-based production company IndieFlix explores the problem.
The film will be screened Friday at 7 p.m. at Summit Atlas School in West Seattle.
In the documentary, one kid after another describes what they feel anxious about: taking tests, getting into college, social pressures.
One boy described the thoughts that run through his mind when he sees Instagram posts about a party he wasn’t invited to.
“You’re like, why didn’t they invite me? Why wasn’t I there?” he asked. “Are they not friends with me? Do they not like me?”
They also described what that stress and worry feels like physically: heart racing, hands shaking, crying.
Scilla Andreen is one of the film’s two executive producers and chief executive of IndieFlix, a Seattle-based company that produces its own content as well as showcases works from others.
Angst includes interviews with kids from Seattle and Walla Walla, but also from places such as the U.K. and New York. Andreen said it wasn’t always easy to get them to talk.
“We had kids come in and cancel at the last minute. We had them start filming and need to stop. We had some people that we filmed and they said please don’t use it,” she said. “So it took a lot of courage for the people that are in the film to speak up and come forward.”
But she said that for many, it’s been a healing and cathartic process.
The film lets kids and adults know they’re not alone. The movie includes an interview with Olympic swimming champion Michael Phelps in which he describes times when he didn’t want to be alive.
“I started talking about the things that I went through and once I opened up about that and things that I had kept inside of me for so many years, I then found that life was a lot easier,” he said.
Angst includes suggestions of easy things kids can do to tame their anxiety – for example, snapping their fingers, making art, or doing breathing exercises. Andreen said the most important thing people who are feeling anxious should do is talk to others about it.
And she said the film offers parents ideas for how to connect with their kids and help them control anxiety. For example, parents can describe overcoming their own challenges.
“Maybe say, 'God, I had to do a presentation and I was really nervous. My slide deck didn’t work, but my friend helped me and I got through it and actually it turned out really great and nobody cared that it didn’t work in the beginning,’” she said. “Something where you can actually model everyday challenges that we go through and then the kids learn to be able to share.”
The film will be shown around the country, mostly at schools. Andreen said she would like it to spark a broader conversation about mental health issues.