If you think you know a kid who suffers from anxiety, see this movie.

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I experienced my first panic attack when I was in my twenties.  It was baffling, bewildering, alarming, scary.  I didn’t know what was happening at the time, and afterward, I was left feeling shaky, hollow, and scared.  But more than all of that, I was left feeling ashamed.  I felt as though I should have known what was happening and should have been able to stop it, or - better yet - prevent it.  I was an adult with a close-knit circle of friends and a caring husband, and I was still profoundly affected.  I’m fortunate to have had access to great health insurance, which allowed me to access good mental health care.

What would I have done if that panic attack had hit me in my teens or pre-teens when I was uncertain about my own self and my place in the world?  When my parents, who had good intentions and no tools, wouldn’t have known how to help me?  When people simply didn’t talk about mental health in terms of resources, if at all?  I can’t imagine facing those kinds of obstacles, but thousands of our kids are facing them every day.  Anxiety disorders in youth are reaching epidemic proportions across the country, across all barriers - socio-economic, culture, language, class.  At a time when kids are learning to define themselves and explore their passions, they are also faced with enormous pressure to perform academically, socially, athletically, and more.  Social media puts exponential pressure on our youth, and they are ill-equipped to handle it.  I know I couldn’t have.

These reasons and more are why Willow Public School is bringing the documentary film “Angst: Raising Awareness Around Anxiety” to the Gesa Power House Theatre in Walla Walla on Thursday, the 22nd of March.  I’ve spoken to the producers, and they have reported that kids seeing this film feel liberated and supported to talk about the issue of anxiety and that it frees them to find coping skills and solutions.  If you think you know a kid who suffers from anxiety (and chances are very high that you do), invite them to come see this movie and talk about it with you, and with us.  Join us and a host of supporters at 6:00 for a Resource Fair, where you’ll get a small sample of tools and people who can help.  After the film, at 8:00, we will be hosting a discussion with mental health care providers and students who are featured in the film.

I hope that you’ll walk away from the evening with a greater understanding of what our students are facing and how we can help.