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Angst Shines a Light on Youth Anxiety and Draws a Crowd to The Picture House

Filed in Internships, News, Parents by on January 2, 2018 • views: 1129

A crowd of nearly 150 parents, students, and educators gathered at The Picture House on January 17th for a screening of Angst, a documentary film that portrays the struggles young people face when in coping with anxiety. The event, which was co-sponsored by Pelham PACT, Pelham SEPTA and Community Care Center, sought to draw local attention to what is increasingly a pervasive problem across the nation. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly 1 in every 8 children in the United States—and 1 in 4 teens—suffers from anxiety. For many of them, the struggle intensifies as they go to college; over 62% of college students reported feelings of “overwhelming anxiety” in a survey taken in 2016.

“The issue is incredibly timely, and vital to the wellness of our young people,” said Laura Caruso, Executive Director of Pelham PACT.  “We are hearing from parents that young people in our community are struggling, and we are eager to continue having conversations about how we can best support them.”

In addition to the film screening, the event featured a panel of local experts from the fields of mental health services and wellness. The panel included Dr. Emily Upshur, a clinical psychologist; Argos Gonzalez, a mindfulness instructor, and Kristin Quintano, a counselor with Student Assistance Services who works with students at PMHS. All three panelists offered valuable context for the film and were on hand to answer questions from parents.

At the start of the panel, Gonzalez led the audience in a mindfulness activity focused on finding your ‘anchor breath’, a vital coping skill that can help both young people and adults manage anxious thoughts.

“Breathing can help you to find yourself in the present, rather than re-living the past or pre-living the future,” said Gonzalez.

Indeed, questions from the audience followed up on this train of thought, and many sought to understand how different coping mechanisms suggested in the film and be used by young people to cope with anxious thoughts during the school day.

“Everyone has different coping skills for the challenges they are facing,” Dr. Upshur said. “Figuring out what works best, whether it’s finding your breath or calming your body down, can be really helpful.

Ms. Quintano had thoughtful advice for parents of high school students who are overloaded with school, tests and extracurricular activities.

“An extracurricular outside of school may seem like it can be negotiable, but maybe to your high schooler, that’s actually the one activity that’s helping him cope,” said Quintano.

While the film featured candid interviews with young people who were able to describe in vivid detail the experience of feeling anxiety, the silver lining, according to Dr. Upshur, is that anxiety is treatable—and that it can go away.

“What comes up, does come down,” Dr. Upshur explained. “We want young people to recognize that and be able to say ‘This is my anxiety bothering me, but it’s going to go away.’ It always goes away.”

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