Raising Awareness and Starting Community Conversations around Anxiety

One of the community conversations we wanted to have during the Youth Empowerment Summit was on the rising rate of anxiety among today’s teens. In fact, local data from our own Bartholomew County students reflect a similar concern.

Over 5,000 BCSC students completed the Indiana Youth Survey and CYD compared 2017 to 2019 responses to the question, “During the last 12 months, did you feel sad or hopeless for 2 or more weeks in a row?”

Consistently across all grades, more students answered yes this year compared to two years ago with 8th graders in middle school and 11th graders in high school having the highest percentage of students struggling in both 2017 and 2019.

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 To address these concerns head on, we hosted a showing of the award-winning documentary Angst and a guest panel discussion focused on teen anxiety and depression.

Approximately 130 teens, parents and community members joined us in the Columbus North Auditorium for the viewing and discussion Tuesday night.

Dr. Jim Roberts highlighted the school's efforts to empower students to make the best choices possible in his opening remarks. He mentioned their key focus on the Developmental Assets framework, which is being shared with adults and the students through a series of various workshops and training sessions to celebrate the assets they thrive and help fill the gaps they may be lacking. He ended his speech with: 

“It is our goal, through evenings like this one, where we have the chance to learn and get better together and continue to move forward.”

About ANGST

Angst is a 56-minute film and virtual reality experience that explores anxiety, its causes, effects and what we can do about it. The filmmakers’ goal is to have a global conversation and raise awareness around anxiety. 

The film features candid interviews with kids and young adults who suffer, or have suffered, from anxiety and what they’ve learned about it. It also includes discussions with mental health experts about the causes of anxiety and its sociological effects, as well as help, resources and tools.

Topics Addressed in the Documentary

  • What is anxiety?

  • Different types of anxiety disorders

  • Tips for coping with anxious feelings and/or anxiety disorders

  • How are anxiety disorders treated?

  • How long does treatment last?

  • How to help a friend who has an anxiety disorder

  • What tools can we use to manage everyday anxiety?

Expert Panel Discussion

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After the documentary, we had four expert panelists on stage moderated by Judge Heather Mollo.

Dr. Matthew C. Aalsma, Professor of Pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine, shared his knowledge on the science behind anxiety and what happens in our brains when we feel anxious.

Dr. Jennifer Wright-Berryman, Assistant Professor of Social Work at the University of Cincinnati shared findings in her research on teen anxiety and emphasized the benefits of treating anxiety problems at an earlier age. 

Kelli Hoeflinger, Director of  School Counseling at Hauser Junior-Senior High School answered questions that address schools efforts to address anxiety in our kids. 

Andy Taube, Counselor at Columbus East High School also answered questions that address schools efforts to address anxiety in our kids and benefits of yoga and meditation for anxiety. 

We also had impressive participation from the young people in the audience with questions to panelists ranging from “What do I do when my parents don’t believe in anxiety?” to “What should I do when I see a friend who has anxiety problems without offending them?”

Panelists suggested that teens can help friends struggling with anxiety by telling them it’s okay to be anxious, relating to friends feelings, sharing personal feelings, and opening up conversations.

Experts recommended that parents should try to listen to the child’s emotions, and not jump to conclusions and ignore the situation by just assuming it is a ‘teen’ phase.

We ended the night with a hopeful message:

"You're not alone. You have a tribe who'll listen and care for you." 

Recommended Tools and Resources

Council for Youth Development prepared 12 Definitions and Tips on Anxiety resource with contacts for local health resources and initiatives for our audiences. The information was provided by Regine Galanti, Ph.D. Director, Long Island Behavioral Psychology.

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Local health resources and initiatives:

Additional resources recommended by Angst:

  • Helpful websites: Help pages, Community / Forums, Panic Disorders, OCD, Social Anxiety, PTSD, Specific Phobias, Mindfulness, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

  • Apps: Tools For Peace, Headspace, What’s Up? SAM App, Whil, Max Impact TBI app, Insight Timer

  • Videos: Exposure therapy scene from the documentary Angst, Angst Crosswinds – Zachary Nimmo, What it’s like to live with Anxiety, Things people with Anxiety want their friends to know, etc.

  • Articles: How to Prevent Anxiety in Children, What’s the Difference Between Feeling Anxious and Having Anxiety?, How To Help Children Under 10 Cope With Anxiety, Help your Child reduce test Stress, etc.

  • Books: Wally and the Whatifs: A children’s book about a little boy who faces intense anxiety And how he manages to work through it, Anxious Kids, Anxious Parents: 7 Ways to Stop the Worry Cycle and Raise courageous & Independent Children, The Worry Trick: How Your Brain Tricks You into Expecting the Worst and What You Can Do About It, etc.

Thank You

Special thanks to Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative, Healthy Communities Mental Health Action Team, Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation for co-hosting this event and their guidance on facilitating these conversations . We would also like to thank Columbus North High School for allowing us to use their auditorium.