Sink or swim

Doc­u­men­tary about anx­i­ety taps Michael Phelps


NEW YORK — A new doc­u­men­tary about anx­i­ety ar­gues that ev­ery­one to some ex­tent suf­fers from stress, nerves and so­cial fear.

And, to make their point, the film­mak­ers have en­listed as Ex­hibit A the most dec­o­rated Olympian in his­tory.

Michael Phelps ap­pears in Angst to share his story of be­ing bul­lied and de­pressed, lead­ing to se­vere anx­i­ety. The swim­mer, win­ner of 28 Olympic medals, would look in the mir­ror and not like what he saw.

“Once I opened up about that and things that I had kept in­side of me for so many years, 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,” he says in the film.

Angst, an IndieFlix film de­signed to be screened at schools and com­mu­nity cen­tres, fea­tures can­did in­ter­views with chil­dren and young adults dis­cussing their anx­i­ety, along with ad­vice from men­tal health ex­perts and re­sources and tools.

Phelps is like a mus­cu­lar ex­pla­na­tion mark for what the film­mak­ers wanted to show — that even world cham­pi­ons can feel low.

“I’m grate­ful be­cause my mis­sion with this film is to help make the world a bet­ter place and I be­lieve he is so ad­di­tive on that level,” said Scilla An­dreen, CEO and co-founder of IndieFlix. “If we can in­tro­duce preven­tion, self-care and well-be­ing to our chil­dren — even in the pre-K and kin­der­garten years — they can have a com­pletely dif­fer­ent life.”

An­dreen hopes the film will reach more than three mil­lion peo­ple around the world from 25,000 com­mu­nity and school screen­ings.

Angst was filmed in the U.S. and United King­dom and is ap­pro­pri­ate for chil­dren start­ing at age 10.

“Anx­i­ety is to­tally treat­able,” An­dreen said. “It can be a pre­cur­sor to so many things that can then lead to ad­dic­tion, home­less­ness, drop­ping out of school and a host of other men­tal health chal­lenges.”

Anx­i­ety dis­or­ders are the most com­mon men­tal health chal­lenge in the U.S., im­pact­ing 54 per cent of fe­males and 46 per cent of males, with age seven be­ing the me­dian age of on­set, ac­cord­ing to the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion. The Amer­i­can Col­lege Health As­so­ci­a­tion found un­der­grad­u­ates re­ported “over­whelm­ing anx­i­ety” jumped to 62 per cent in 2016 from 50 per cent in 2011.

“Talk­ing about it is the most ef­fec­tive thing you can do and, of course, the last thing you want to do,” said An­dreen. In ad­di­tion to talk­ing, writ­ing about your feel­ings or con­nect­ing to mu­sic can help. “Any­thing that helps you to take a break from the anx­i­ety and move the en­ergy to the front of the brain.”

An­dreen, whose dis­tri­bu­tion stream­ing ser­vice em­braces projects that push for so­cial change, was bul­lied as a child and learned some­thing about her­self while work­ing on the film.

“I learned in mak­ing the movie that I have so­cial anx­i­ety. I never even knew that.”

Olympic swim­ming cham­pion Michael Phelps ap­pears in the doc­u­men­tary Angst to share his story of be­ing bul­lied and de­pressed.

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