“Angst:” Ursuline Starts the Conversation

Recent years have brought greater visibility to mental health, especially in connection to the most common mental disorder: anxiety. Anxiety and its related disorders, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, plague 18% of the United States, almost 40 million people, each year alone. Also, 8% of the population is estimated to develop symptoms of an anxiety disorder before they reach 21 years old.

Despite these huge figures, however, only a staggering 1 in 3 of people suffering from anxiety seek and receive help. Many afflicted with anxiety, especially teenagers, may not know how to find help, not fully understand the disease, or may not even attempt to handle this legitimate medical condition due to stigma surrounding mental health issues. Ursuline, along with Greenhill, Hockaday, Parish Episcopal, and St. Marks, is taking a stand to combat these obstacles students face when struggling with anxiety.

Sponsored by the aforementioned schools, Greenhill is hosting a screening of Angst, a documentary that delves into “anxiety, its causes, effects, and what we can do about it,” as described by Ursuline personal counselor Mrs. Hamilton. On October 29, at 8:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m., parents are invited to attend the 56-minute screening of the film and “virtual reality experience” to spread awareness and reduce stigma about teen anxiety.

Unfortunately, anxiety is prevalent among high school students across the globe, including at Ursuline. Common triggers, according to Mrs. Hamilton, include pressures in and out of the classroom, relationship or friendship concerns, social media, and changing family dynamics. In response, Ursuline has made renewed efforts in the past several years to raise awareness and offer help to students suffering from anxiety.

Ursuline’s involvement and support of Angst comes as part of the school’s “wellness initiative,” which can also be seen in UA’s specialized Wellness Week, with speakers and activities aimed toward increasing the visibility of physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

On the wellness initiative and the documentary specifically, Mrs. Hamilton said, “We want to educate our parents and students on how to identify anxiety, increase their self-coping skills, and ask for help.” Additionally, steps like Wellness Week and Angst help to reduce the stigma and shame that often surround mental disorders.

Mrs. Hamilton and the rest of the UA counselors and administration hope Angst will “help parents identify and understand the symptoms of anxiety and encourage them to seek help for their child.” Also, a common roadblock to mental health treatment in teens is a problem with communication, so the screening serves as a beginning to the difficult conversation, educating parents so that they better relate and appreciate difficulties and solutions surrounding teen anxiety.

To this end, both presentations will end with a conversation, a panel with students and counselors to shed more light on the issue from students’ perspective. In an honest, safe setting, parents attending the screening can learn more about what they can do and look for in their teens’ behavior to prevent or combat serious anxiety.

Students cannot attend the screening due to space concerns, but the film’s message reaches out to teens as well as parents as a simple theme backed by Ursuline’s personal counselors: seek help. As put by Mrs. Hamilton, “When anxiety starts to interfere with daily activities such as school performance, physical or mental health, and relationships, students need to reach out.” Shouldering the burden of anxiety is never a feasible treatment. If you are struggling, talk to a friend, parent or counselor.

Angst and projects like it serve as fantastic sources of visibility and conversation toward teen anxiety, and this screening should inspire action, change and new awareness in the Ursuline community to hopefully change anxiety’s grim statistics and help Ursuline students seek help and destroy stigmas.

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