‘Angst’ Documentary, Panel Discussion at LCHS Tackle Anxiety

Jim Cartnal, Melissa Johnson, Paul Royer and Rachel Zooi discuss anxiety as part of a small panel discussion
Photo by Wes Woods II / OUTLOOK
Jim Cartnal, Melissa Johnson, Paul Royer and Rachel Zooi discuss anxiety as part of a small panel discussion after a recent screening of the film “Angst: Raising Awareness Around Anxiety” at the La Cañada High School auditorium.

La Cañada High School senior Ashlyn Oh owns a laptop computer — but not a smartphone. Even so, she said, she experiences stress and escapism through technology just like other teenagers do.
Oh, who plans to double major in psychology and neuroscience at Williams College, is specifically interested in seeing how technology affects one’s mind and how that correlates with a rise in depression and anxiety.
“I think becoming aware of anxiety and destigmatizing it is incredibly important,” said Oh, 17.
She was one of about 400 students, parents and school officials who attended a recent screening of “Angst: Raising Awareness Around Anxiety” at LCHS. After the documentary, a small panel discussion was held with Melissa Johnson, a licensed psychologist and founder of the Institute for Girls Development; Paul Royer, a licensed clinical social worker; and La Cañada Unified School District counselor/wellness coordinator Rachel Zooi. LCHS Principal Jim Cartnal was the emcee for the discussion.
LCHS freshman Caroline Zaren, 15, said she enjoyed the event’s focus and was glad to see school officials bring awareness to the topic. “I feel like a lot of it goes untalked about, but it’s really important that people know they can get help,” Zaren said.
The 56-minute documentary was part of a community engagement mini-grant the LCUSD received from the California Mental Health Services Authority and the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health.
Grant funds were used to support the free movie screening as well as activities taking place during Mental Health Awareness Month — held in May — at the high school and 7/8 campuses, officials said.
The film tells the stories of young adults, teens and tweens who battle anxiety and its effects on their relationships and lives. The film included a special interview with Olympic champion swimmer Michael Phelps, a mental health advocate.
A pamphlet was distributed with such tips as placing ice cubes in one’s hand to help stop bouts of anxiety and panic. Other suggestions include looking at your hands and then focusing on the floor, talking to someone, snapping your fingers back and forth, listening to music, or going to a place where you feel safe or special, such as a beach or your room.
Zooi was happy with the turnout. “We had 380 RSVPs, she said. “I think most of them came. Even people who couldn’t come reached out to see if there was another opportunity. We have had mental health-related evening events as Paul [Royer] mentioned and there was not nearly the turnout. So this is good.”
Officials also mentioned the opening of LCHS’ new Wellness Center, set to be located in the old textbook room in the Information Resource Center. LCUSD Superintendent Wendy Sinnette said in February the plan was to open it in August.
Zooi said the center will offer mental health support including therapeutic services and therapy.
“We’ll have ice cubes,” said Zooi, as was detailed in the pamphlet and the movie. “That’s a real thing.”
Cartnal said the Wellness Center is also for students to go to “strengthen strategies to engage in learning” and become confident members of the community.

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