IndieFlix
                                Jenny Howe, a therapist at Waypoint Academy, with teen Max White. In this scene, the therapist is driving Max to a store as part of exposure therapy to ease his anxieties.

IndieFlix Jenny Howe, a therapist at Waypoint Academy, with teen Max White. In this scene, the therapist is driving Max to a store as part of exposure therapy to ease his anxieties.

‘Angst’: A must-see film about kids’ fears comes to Everett

Olympian Michael Phelps talks of his struggles in a documentary school leaders hope you’ll see.

Liam sees Instagram pictures of classmates at a party and wonders why he wasn’t invited. Jasmin is overwhelmed by trying to get good grades. Noah says he’s always anxious. And Adam feels “like an ant in the anthill.”

The teens are featured in the documentary “Angst,” an IndieFlix film released in 2017. I came across it by accident Monday while hunting for school-supply lists on local school districts’ websites. Instead, I found a better back-to-school subject.

“Angst” is available for viewing, just through Sept. 7, on the Everett Public Schools website.

My advice? Watch it, whether you have school-age children or not.

Kids and teens in the film share their paralyzing fears about AP tests, social media, their looks, presentations in class and other situations. It includes a surprising interview with the most decorated Olympian ever, swimming phenomenon Michael Phelps.

In the 56-minute film, the winner of 28 Olympic medals tells a young boy, also a swimmer, about how bullying in middle school and high school fueled his anxiety and what became “massive spells of depression.”

Phelps said there were stretches of his life, in 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2014, that he “didn’t want to be alive anymore.”

“Once I opened up about that, life was a lot easier,” he said in the film. “I understood it’s OK to not be OK.”

IndieFlix
                                Olympic swimming superstar Michael Phelps meeting with Charlie Smith, a boy featured in the doumentary “Angst.” Phelps talks about his own struggles in the film.

IndieFlix Olympic swimming superstar Michael Phelps meeting with Charlie Smith, a boy featured in the doumentary “Angst.” Phelps talks about his own struggles in the film.

Dr. Laura Kastner, a clinical psychologist who has taught in the University of Washington School of Medicine’s psychiatry and behavioral sciences department, is among experts featured in “Angst.” The author of “Getting to Calm” parenting books, Kastner said in the film that she’s heard very young children — kids small enough to worry about monsters under the bed — voice real fears about getting into college.

“There’s a lot of modern-day pressure. It’s really tough growing up,” said Sally Lancaster, an Everett School District assistant superintendent. “On social media, they struggle to get noticed. Everybody wants a place to connect and feel like they’re seen. There’s been a huge increase in anxiety in kids.”

A former teacher who spent five years as principal of Everett High School, Lancaster said the film was brought to the district’s attention by Joyce Stewart. Recently retired as the Everett district’s deputy superintendent, Stewart showed “Angst” at a meeting of principals and teachers.

“They had strong feelings that everybody should watch this — they’re right,” Lancaster said. And in April, a PTA group sponsored a free showing of “Angst” at Jackson High School. “There were a lot of positive comments from families,” she added.

Lancaster said the district’s cost for making the film available online for one month is $7,500.

The kids interviewed for “Angst” shared fears of taking high-stakes tests and being judged by peers. One subject not raised in the film has also become a terrifying possibility. From Columbine to Marysville Pilchuck and Marjory Stoneman Douglas high schools, mass shootings have happened here and across this country.

IndieFlix
                                Jim Wulff and daughter Sarah Wulff in the documentary “Angst.” The father and daughter discuss Sarah’s issues.

IndieFlix Jim Wulff and daughter Sarah Wulff in the documentary “Angst.” The father and daughter discuss Sarah’s issues.

Last week, a New York Times article about bulletproof backpacks included the story of 19-year-old University of Connecticut student J.T. Lewis, who wears one on campus. His little brother, Jesse, was killed in the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Suicide is a more common threat. Wendy Burchill, an injury prevention specialist with the Snohomish Health District, told The Herald that as of March there had been six youth suicides, all among boys, in the 2018-19 academic year. The previous year, there were 11 youth suicides countywide.

“Angst” covers not only kids’ candid accounts of suffering, but ways to ease fears that can keep them from going to school at all. Mental health experts suggest tactics — taking a “stress breath,” writing in a journal, or briefly focusing eyes on something else during a test — to lessen anxious moments.

In one scene, therapist Jenny Howe, who has worked in Utah treating adolescent anxiety, accompanies a teen boy to a clothing store. During her “exposure therapy” exercise, Howe asks him to try something on and ask a clerk how it looks. In doing something he feared, the boy felt a bit more confident.

“Angst” was posted on the district’s website Friday. Lancaster said one powerful comment came from a teacher who watched it with administrators. The teacher, she said, recounted how she’d sometimes been too hard on a student. “She realized she should have had more empathy,” Lancaster said.

“We would like as many families to see this as possible,” she added.

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

‘Angst’ film

The 56-minute documentary film “Angst” is available for viewing, though Sept. 7, on the Everett Public Schools website: www.everettsd.org/Page/29969

Learn more at: angstmovie.com

Talk to us

More in Local News

Officials: Snohomish, other counties not ready for Phase 2

There are too many new daily cases and not enough testing or contact tracing to advance by June 1.

Peter Zieve wants to keep low-income people out of Mukilteo

The controversial aerospace owner and failed council candidate has launched another mailer campaign.

Island County gets go-ahead for Phase 2 of reopening economy

People can gather in groups five or fewer. Some businesses can open, if they follow guidelines.

Everett Farmers Market welcomes back walkers

Social distancing will be key to keeping pedestrians safe at city market.

‘Alarming’ number of motorcycle fatalities to start the year

Twenty-five motorcyclists have died so far this year throughout Washington state.

Marysville drivers wait overnight for Chick-fil-A opening

The popular chicken restaurant began serving at 6:30 a.m. Thursday. Police plan to guide traffic for days.

Stillaguamish Tribe gives $1M to food banks, fire services

“I had to do a double take,” said the director of the Stanwood Camano Food Bank, which received $300,000.

Traffic’s creeping back and some transit to collect fares again

Community Transit and Sound Transit are set to resume fares June 1, but not Everett Transit.

‘Appalled’ judge sentences pastor for theft from Oso victims

“God only knows what darkness in (Gary) Ray’s soul has caused him to do these things,” the judge said.

Most Read