For many years anxiety has troubled many people; however it isn’t an easy thing to talk about. It has even become an issue among students in our school. Mrs. Roth, a counselor for the elementary and middle school, and a parent of a New Haven student, decided it was time for a change.
On September 10, 2018, NHHS showed Angst, a film about anxiety and its effects on students. Grades 5 through 12 met in the high school’s gym to watch the documentary and to hear a story from a NHHS faculty member who has struggled with anxiety.
In the documentary, we heard from several students and parents about their struggles with anxiety. The students told some of their personal stories and discussed their triggers.
Some kids in the film would get triggered by certain things they had to do in practice; others would get triggered if they were late to class and had to sit in a seat they weren’t used to. Their parents shared the struggles of trying to reach out to a child with anxiety when it isn’t properly diagnosed. For some parents, it was aggravating; for others, they acknowledged the disorder, but did nothing to help; and some would deny it by saying that their child was just anxious-- that everybody gets anxious.
A teacher in the film, who was also a foster mom to a child with anxiety, shared her methods in the classroom for helping students with this disorder. She said that each student has certain signs that let her know they are having (or feel as if they could have) an anxiety attack. When she would see their sign, she would let them step out and go to a safe place. The students would then be able to come back when they were ready. She would do so in a manner that would bring little to no attention from the class onto the student who needed to step out.
In the film, there were also doctors who specialize in treating and helping people who are troubled with an anxiety disorder. They told of signs indicating an issue, such as a child suffering with abdominal pains when they are approached by one of their triggers. The doctors also shared that most of the time, when a young child is struggling, one of the parents tends to have anxiety as well.
When discussing anxiety attacks, many of the students in the film said that they can’t describe it. Some of the students said that they cry. Others described the pain they had in their abdominal and chest areas. Some students even reported having difficulty breathing.
Towards the end, the doctors talked of something called “exposure therapy.” This form of treatment is considered to be the most effective. This is when a person goes and does what triggers them in order to overcome their anxiety.
During the documentary, they showed a boy undergoing this treatment. Talking to others and receiving feedback on his appearance were some of his triggers, so they had him go into a store to try on clothes. He then walked around and asked other customers how he looked. All throughout his exposure, he was asked to report back to his doctor, who was there with him, how anxious he was feeling. Although he felt anxious throughout the experiment, you could see the excitement he had when he finished.
When the documentary had finished, the student body was asked to raise their hands if they had ever felt the effects of anxiety or knew someone with this disorder. After a moment, the students were asked to look around-- the majority of the crowd had their hands raised.
Afterward, one of our very own here at NHHS came forward about his struggles with no shame-- Mr. Tucker. He went in front of the gym to share his story. Although Mr. Tucker’s is due to a chemical imbalance, it still affected him the same as anyone else who has an anxiety disorder. Mr. Tucker repeatedly compared his anxiety attacks to the feeling of a heart attack. He also told of the moment he had had enough. His anxiety had begun to disrupt both his professional and personal life.
Between the powerful documentary and the heartfelt story of Mr. Tucker, there was a lot to take away from this discussion of anxiety. Together-- students, teachers, and even the community-- we can make our school a safe place for all.