An integrative mental health practice and New Canaan Library are teaming up to present a documentary film and panel discussion next week that address what local experts call some of the most prevalent health-related challenges facing youth in town.
“Angst,” a much-discussed documentary designed to raise awareness about anxiety, with an emphasis on youth and families, is to be presented at 5:45 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 22 in the Lamb Room at the library. The screening and discussion are sponsored by Stamford-based Riverwalk Group and the library (register here).
Elissa Stein, founder of Riverwalk Group, which provides therapy, support and programming to people in all stages of life, said New Canaan forms a major piece of her clientele and that she arranged for the free event since “we are hearing more and more from all pieces of the family—parents who are anxious, children who are anxious, grandparents who are anxious.”
“We have cases where children are coming back from college and they cannot have success at college because they are so riddled with anxiety that they come back home,” Stein, a resident of north Stamford, told NewCanaanite.com on a recent morning during an interview at Zumbach’s.
The 56-minute documentary explores the causes, effects and possible ways to address anxiety, in part through candid interviews with kids and young adults who have suffered from it, including swimmer Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian in history.
In New Canaan, stresses that arise in young people from families, academics and through social and media pressures prompted one prominent organization, New Canaan CARES, to focus on “resilience building.”
Meg Domino, the nonprofit’s highly respected executive director, said the issue “is serious enough that we really know we cannot be starting at high school, that we really begin as early as preschool” in addressing what she termed “worries, fears, phobias and stresses.”
“What happens lot of times is kids’ ability or inability cope with little things leads, later on, to being unable to cope with big things,” Domino told NewCanaanite.com.
The stresses that youth face today are different from those that other generations have faced, in part because they’re not only “competing on many, many levels” in areas such as GPA and college applications, but also “the fact that we are a society living ‘out loud,’ where everybody knows everybody’s up-to-the-moment status,” Domino said.
“Social, athletic, academic. That whole status is out there which adds to this level of bubbling, and it just comes down to a combination of different stresses and how to cope with them. We add to them significantly as parents every time we open PowerSchool. We add to them by asking questions so often related to achievement as opposed to effort, by micromanaging—that ads to the feeling of, ‘Am I good enough to do this by myself?’ and “Am I really as good as I am?’ ”
Kathleen Crouse, teen services librarian at New Canaan Library, said the “Angst” documentary screening is “part of an ongoing effort by the family services department to engage the community in a discussion on mental health awareness.”
“Starting in middle school or even earlier, students are under immense pressure to succeed academically—and this is particularly evident in a high-achieving town like New Canaan,” she said. “We know that the stress of these expectations can lead to anxiety, depression, and even substance abuse, but too often these issues are stigmatized or ignored. Our hope is that by presenting informative, non-judgmental programs for both parents and children on mental health issues, we can start a dialogue that enables our community to speak openly about their wellbeing.”
For Stein, part of the Riverwalk Group’s mission, in addition to providing high-quality therapy and programming, is “to provide resources for the community at no charge.”
“And so we do something regularly called Community Conversation Series,” she said. “We had an event last spring that focused on ‘13 Reasons Why,’ and had a conversation with parents about how to mange conversations with children about this. It was very meaningful for those who attended. We aim to give to our community three events that can provide emotional growth and support—for individuals, couples and families.”