It’s a problem and a feeling all too easily misunderstood, discounted or dismissed but also all too real, debilitating and treatable for those who live with it.

Anxiety was the topic of an hour-long documentary “Angst: Raising Awareness Around Anxiety” presented Thursday, April 29, by Crow Wing Energized and Sourcewell.

“Angst: Raising Awareness Around Anxiety” documentary includes images that define the problem. Screenshot / Frank Lee.
“Angst: Raising Awareness Around Anxiety” documentary includes images that define the problem. Screenshot / Frank Lee.

“On top of academic and social stress, the uncertainty and fears of this past pandemic year have brought all of us a lot more anxiety than before. ‘Angst’ helps break this down, explaining what’s going on, and what we can do about it to help both ourselves and others,” a flyer stated.

The free virtual screening was followed by a 30-minute panel discussion with Dan Fischer, Emily Bailey and the film’s producer Scilla Andreen, moderated by Kathy Sell.

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“Since I started to get really passionate about taking these films out into schools, a friend of mine asked me to make a movie about mental health, and I did not want to do it, I was thinking that should be for someone who’s a licensed professional,” Andreen said.

Andreen said her previous experience in motion pictures included working for Warner Bros. and Sony on TV shows like “The Wonder Years,” “Party of Five,” “Dawson's Creek” and “Smallville” before moving on to making independent movies and social impact documentaries.

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“And my friend, she just kept asking me,” Andreen said of her friend urging her to make “Angst.“ “And then I got a call on New Year’s Day that she had died by suicide, leaving two teenage children and her husband, and I knew she was struggling, but I didn’t know it was that bad.”

Andreen’s documentary includes interviews with children, teens, experts and parents with the goal to “help people identify and understand the symptoms of anxiety and encourage them to reach out for help,” according to IndieFlix, a presenter of online, film-based education programs.

One of the most common and best ways to treat anxiety is exposure therapy, according to the documentary “Angst: Raising Awareness Around Anxiety.” Screenshot / Frank Lee
One of the most common and best ways to treat anxiety is exposure therapy, according to the documentary “Angst: Raising Awareness Around Anxiety.” Screenshot / Frank Lee

“‘Angst’ removes the stigma and opens up the conversation around anxiety, helping people understand and manage their symptoms, and when to reach out for help. Most importantly, it shows people that they are not alone, and that anxiety is 100% treatable,” according to the film.

Crow Wing Energized’s special screening of the online documentary Thursday evening was intended to open up a dialogue between local families, community leaders and experts.

“Personal crises that aren’t properly managed can cause all types of physical and mental disorders. These are emotional states that become chronic. They might be combined with other disorders as well, such as depression,” William Fortune III of Brainerd stated in the online chat.

Swimmer Michael Phelps, the most decorated athlete in Olympic history, appears in the anxiety-centered documentary as a mental health advocate talking openly about his struggles. Screenshot / Frank Lee
Swimmer Michael Phelps, the most decorated athlete in Olympic history, appears in the anxiety-centered documentary as a mental health advocate talking openly about his struggles. Screenshot / Frank Lee

Swimmer Michael Phelps, the most decorated athlete in Olympic history, appears in the anxiety-centered documentary as a mental health advocate talking openly about his struggles.

“Like I couldn't look at myself in the mirror and be happy with who I saw. And even with everything that has happened that had happened at that point, like, I just didn't like who I was,” Phelps tells a boy, one of the many children who talked openly about their anxiety.

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The candid interviews with kids and teens who discussed their anxiety and its impacts on their lives and relationships included only their first names but they shared how they found hope and solutions.

“If something was bothering me that would start to come up, and I would start feeling angry or depressed or upset, I would almost ignore it,” Phelps said. “Once I opened up about that … I then found that life was a lot easier. I got to the point where I understood that it's OK to not be OK.”

Olympian Michael Phelps appears in the documentary “Angst: Raising Awareness Around Anxiety” by IndieFlix, a presenter of online, film-based education programs. Screenshot / Frank Lee
Olympian Michael Phelps appears in the documentary “Angst: Raising Awareness Around Anxiety” by IndieFlix, a presenter of online, film-based education programs. Screenshot / Frank Lee

Fischer was a panelist who talked after the documentary. He is a licensed school counselor at Forestview Middle School in Baxter who has a bachelor's degree in psychology and a master's degree in counseling with concentrations in school and community counseling.

“The biggest thing that I see in a school is the impact that anxiety has when they talked about how attendance is a big thing,” Fischer said of the documentary. “We'll see that kids miss three, four or five days in a row and then we start to wonder what's going on.”

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Fischer has 10 years of experience working with Brainerd Public Schools and has presented to school staff on the topics of suicide prevention and trauma-focused classroom practices.

“We work very closely with our health office in our school, and we see kids that are having these stomachaches … and finding out that's really more anxiety-related,” Fischer said.

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Bailey was also another panelist. She has an internship at Nystrom & Associates. She has been involved in several research projects that span multiple topics including social anxiety disorders.

“One of the first few things on the film that, you know, sometimes they cover anxiety with a mask, I think, stood out to me … especially in this age of social media where you can always put your best face forward,” Bailey said of “Angst: Raising Awareness Around Anxiety.”

The film also included experts from institutions such as Stanford University who talk about the causes of anxiety and its sociological effects; resources to help; and tips, tricks and strategies to help reset thinking patterns; push back against anxiety; and support others.

For more information about the documentary “Angst: Raising Awareness Around Anxiety,” visit angstmovie.com.

Tips for managing anxiety

  • Distract oneself by texting a friend, reading a book, snapping fingers, writing feelings in a journal, listening to music, exercising or focusing on breathing.

  • Take the mind into a place where it feels safe and/or special.

  • Don’t avoid the cause of the anxiety. “Rise and fall” in the perceived threat.

  • Talk to someone. Let loved ones know if feeling stressed. Talking about it helps reframe concerns and increase the opportunity for support.

FRANK LEE may be reached at 218-855-5863 or at frank.lee@brainerddispatch.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchFL.