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"Anxiety Is Universal" — And How This Documentary Will Help

Scilla Andreen of "Angst" shares what makes the movie so special

Published on: May 02, 2018

"Angst" still
A still from the IndieFlix documentary "Angst." Photo courtesy of IndieFlix

Anxiety is real and we need to talk about it — that's what filmmaker Scilla Andreen wants you to take away from her documentary "Angst."

Produced by IndieFlix Foundation, where Andreen is co-founder and CEO, "Angst" offers first-hand accounts of anxiety as experienced by young people.

Less than an hour long, the film explains the causes and effects of anxiety. It also gives tools for dealing with anxious feelings and insight from mental health experts. 

Andreen chatted with ParentMap about why adults and teens alike should make time for the movie as well as what she's learned along the way.

What's one thing you hope people take away from watching "Angst"?

My greatest wish is for people to feel comfortable enough to speak up, to reach out and to notice if you or someone you know needs help.

These are our feelings. It’s okay to talk about them; in fact, we should. We need to normalize the conversation about anxiety and mental health. It’s so easy to talk about a sprained ankle or a broken finger or a headache but when it comes to anxiety or any mental health issue, it’s suddenly taboo. 

IndieFlix has done screenings of "Angst" all over the country. What's been the most surprising reaction you've had from audiences? The most heart-warming or inspirational?

The really cool thing I’ve learned is anxiety is universal.

We have done screenings in China, Hong Kong, Canada, Singapore, Korea, Mexico and the U.S. The response has been overwhelmingly positive.

Kids always say they wish their parents could see it so they would know they’re not making it up or they want their friends to see it so they have a better understanding of what they’re going through. Grown-ups always say they wish they’d seen it when they were younger; they might’ve saved themselves and their parents a lot of heartache.

We’ve been told multiple times that it should be required viewing at every orientation and curriculum night. We are being woven into teacher training programs and on going education for mental health practitioners as well as being part of social-emotional corporate culture wellness programs. A 9-year-old girl shared that she was so relieved to know that what she was experiencing were panic attacks instead of dying. 

The inspirational and heartwarming stories are too many to count but one that stands out, in particular, is a friend of mine who brought her 8-year-old son to watch the movie. It was a school night so they didn’t stay for the Q&A. She took him home and as she was tucking him into bed she walked to the door and he said, "Mom, you know that little boy in the movie? I sometimes feel like him." 

My friend almost collapsed in the doorway knowing that her son had those feelings of not wanting to be on the planet. She thought he was just upset about his Pokémon cards. They have since reached out for help and things are so much better.

Teens may (unfortunately) think a documentary is "boring" or "educational." What would you say to them about why they should watch "Angst"? Why they should watch other documentaries?

I didn’t start watching documentaries until I got older so I totally get it. But documentaries are different now: They’re cool. They’re real and they’re much faster-paced. Some documentaries are so inspiring Hollywood couldn’t even come close to creating a character or story that magical.

Real people are pretty awesome and "Angst" is filled with real kids and parents talking about truth and reality and how it’s not so difficult after all.

"Angst" is important for everyone to see so we can learn how to talk about our feelings or at least point to someone who can say it for us.

There’s something about "Angst" that makes us feel not so alone. It’s filled with hope and resources and tools. The minute it’s over you can start using the tools to help you or your friend with anxiety. That’s pretty cool since we all have anxiety it’s just that some of us have it more than others. Oh and the sooner/younger you start talking about anxiety, it [becomes] way more effective and easier to deal with. 

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