On Thursday, January 17, students in grades 7–12 attended a special screening of the movie, Angst, an IndieFlix Original documentary that was created to help break the stigma around anxiety and open up discussion about mental health.
The 56-minute film features several student voices/stories, so viewers get to hear a range of experiences. It shows that anxiety comes in all shapes and sizes, does not discriminate, and looks different for different people.
Personal stories are intermixed with experts who provide information about the science behind anxiety, examples from their practices, and research-based strategies for dealing with anxiety. The filmmakers believe that there is power in watching the movie as a community, as it holds the power to affect change and grant viewers permission to talk about it.
The entire counseling team—Suzanne Humphreys, Kelley Seravalli, and Sarah Satinsky—worked collaboratively to bring this film to the Sanford student body during the school day and the Sanford parent community with an evening showing. Their work did not end there. Following the assembly, students in both divisions spent full advisory periods in small groups discussing the movie and the concepts it presented. The counselors prepared the faculty for the film and the topics it would raise prior to the assembly. Additionally, while they encouraged all forms of follow-up in the advisee sessions based on students’ reactions, to help facilitate discussion, faculty received guiding questions, handouts that students could receive with steps they could take to be supportive of someone with anxiety, suggestions of coping skills to employ during moments of anxiety, activities that the small groups could complete together, and additional print and video resources to consult on the topic. Less structured opportunities for the students to meet informally with any of the counselors are also being offered, which may prove particularly beneficial as the students have more time to process and reflect on the movie.
To explain why the counseling team felt the movie event would be beneficial, Seravalli shared: “Awareness is essential when dealing with anxiety. The more everyone learns about it, the more they are able to recognize it, talk about it, and cope with it. It was important for us to bring in Angst to educate students, parents and faculty. We hoped the compelling film would serve as a springboard for further conversations about anxiety at school and at home.”
While the Lower School students were not included in this assembly, their needs are certainly a consideration, as well. Humphreys elaborated: “Anxiety comes in all shapes and sizes and it helps to be able to recognize it in the elementary years so strategies and coping mechanisms are in place as useful tools in the journey of life.”
Satinsky was pleased with the response to the movie by the student body and later that evening by the parents. She explained: “These can be very hard conversations to initiate, and the movie Angst provided a platform upon which we can build. To have more than 75 members of the greater community attend our evening showing of the film indicates that there is a need for this type of education and follow-up discussion. We are always excited about our counseling event for parents and community constituents, but this one exceeded our expectations.”
Once again, Sanford has demonstrated its commitment to serving the total child at all grade levels, which includes facilitating programs and conversations-even difficult ones-while paying careful attention to the social/emotional well-being of it students.