Doc about anx­i­ety taps into world-class ath­lete

Times Colonist - - Life - MARK KENNEDY

Anew 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 [adds so much] 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,” she 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, af­fect­ing about 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.

“Talk­ing about it is the most ef­fec­tive thing you can do and, of course, the last thing you want to do,” An­dreen said. 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.

“Ev­ery­one has anx­i­ety. And I learned in mak­ing the movie that I have so­cial anx­i­ety. I never even knew that. I just thought I was born less than ev­ery­one else and that was my lot in life. I would al­ways have to work harder, try harder, never fit in,” she said. “I don’t feel so alone.”

In ad­di­tion to the doc­u­men­tary, IndieFlix is cre­at­ing a web-based se­ries on anx­i­ety and has pro­duced a vir­tual re­al­ity com­po­nent that al­lows users to ex­pe­ri­ence a panic at­tack first­hand.

An­dreen be­lieves anx­i­ety lev­els are so high in part be­cause of the pace of mod­ern life and the amount of time peo­ple spend with their elec­tronic de­vices. “We need more face time with each other. We just stopped do­ing it. We’re out of prac­tice, that’s all.”

U.S. Olympic swim­mer Michael Phelps ap­pears in the doc­u­men­tary Angst to share his story of be­ing bul­lied and de­pressed.

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