Acknowledging the importance of student well-being — and in recognition of May as Mental Health Awareness month — La Cañada Unified will offer a free screening Wednesday, May 22 of the documentary “Angst: Raising Awareness Around Anxiety” at La Cañada High School.
The 7 p.m. screening will be followed by a panel discussion led by LCHS Pricipal Jim Cartnal and with guests Melissa Johnson, founder of Pasadena-based Institute for Girls Development and Pasadena-licensed clinical social worker Paul Royer. Counselor and wellness coordinator Rachel Zooi will also participate.
The 2017 film takes a frank look at anxiety through interviews with teens and adults who have suffered from the condition. Interview subjects share what they’ve learned from the process, while filmmakers and Olympic swimmer and mental health advocate Michael Phelps offer tools and resources for teens and parents.
Cartnal, who took his own daughter to a screening of the film last year, said it’s not uncommon for students in high-performing schools to feel pressured to get into the best colleges as an insurance policy against failure.
“There’s a rush to apply to the same 40 to 80 most selective schools in the nation,” he said Tuesday. “Our students are vying for a limited number of spaces with many, many more applicants vying for those limited spaces — the accumulation of it all really wears on a lot of our kids.”
Social media can also play a role, Cartnal continued, as young adults see more and more curated images that distort expectations of what’s normal and real. Teens may turn to drugs and alcohol to numb feelings of inadequacy and worry about the future.
Wednesday’s screening and discussion is made possible by a $5,000 mini-grant from the California Mental Health Services Authority and Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health. It is one of several pieces of outreach around wellness and mental health being offered in the months leading up to the opening of LCHS’s own Wellness Center next school year.
“We want first and foremost to bring to light the experiences of students who are dealing with anxiety,” Cartnal said.
The film is suitable for viewers aged 10 and older.