Students organize screening of anxiety documentary to raise awareness for mental illness

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Photo Credit: Courtesy of Taylor Cofer | Daily Texan Staff

Plan II students presented a screening of “Angst,” a documentary that aims to raise awareness of anxiety, in Mary E. Gearing Hall on Wednesday.

“Anxiety is definitely a difficult thing to talk about,” Plan II freshman Grace Jumonville said. “I think (“Angst”) explains anxiety in a really compelling way that everyone can understand.”

“Angst” highlights the issues faced by people with anxiety. The documentary features interviews with people with anxiety disorders, including Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps, along with mental health experts. The film also discusses the science behind anxiety disorders.

“One of the things that … strikes me about (the documentary) is how relatable and real it is to people who have anxiety,” Marcy Melvin, director of program implementation for child and family policy for the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute, said at the event.

The screening was held as part of a project for the Pathways Civic Engagement course taught by professor Lee Walker. Five students in the course — Jumonville, biochemistry sophomore Kyle Spier, civil engineering freshman Sarah Forthuber, neuroscience freshman Nicki Benamu and Plan II freshman Olivia Reasoner — partnered with Okay to Say for the event. Okay to Say is an organization launched by Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute to increase awareness of mental illness, according to their website.

“Okay to Say’s message is very simple: It’s okay to talk about mental health,” said Shelby Abeyta, campaign director for Okay to Say.

According to Okay to Say, three in four Texans know someone who has experienced a mental health issue.

“Mental health is a broad issue,” Jumonville said. “I think showing this film is so important.”

A paneled discussion followed the documentary’s screening and included Melvin, Plan II and psychology senior Anna Lee Carothers, and Kristal DeSantis, president-elect of the Austin Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. The panelists discussed the importance of talking about mental illness.

“Once we are open, once we are honest and vulnerable … that really helps us to form connections with other people,” Melvin said. “If we are brave enough to share our story, we find out that it helps other people.”

Carothers, president of UT’s chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, talked about the resources on campus for those struggling with mental health issues.

“The Counseling and Mental Health Center really is a fantastic resource … As for (the National Alliance on Mental Illness), we have support groups,” Carothers said. “You are definitely able to find resources here on campus.”