Anxieteens starts the conversation about mental health

A group of students facing the everyday struggle of anxiety aimed to raise awareness about the disorder. Considering the widespread problem of anxiety, these students were inspired to take action to help their fellow peers. Anxieteens, held on May 7 at Temple Adat Elohim, taught others how to recognize the symptoms of anxiety and different ways to cope.

Maya Kamen, a sophomore at Agoura High School, joined the group hosting the event, Rosh Hodesh, after she learned about it in the temple newsletter. Kamen believed this project was integral to the teenage community due to the commonality of anxiety in teenagers. Her hope is that Anxieteens “makes people comfortable knowing that they’re not alone and that there are other people going through (anxiety) as well.”

Betty Alkazian, therapist, started helping with Rosh Hodesh to give back to her synagogue by helping teen girls stay connected to their community and talking about their challenges in high school. Alkazian’s expertise in the field of mental health helped aid the creation of Anxieteens. “I’ve always had a passion for helping kids by helping people have healthier relationships,” Alkazian explained. “(Anxiety) is the main conversation that happens in my office; it is so prevalent. I have parents coming in about about their two-year-olds, three-year-olds, four-year-olds talking about anxiety, not to mention teens, and every age in between.”

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 25 percent of adolescents between ages 13 to 18 have some sort of anxiety disorder. Among the adolescents suffering from anxiety, about 6 percent have a severe form of the disorder. Anxiety disorders include post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and social anxiety disorder, just to name a few.

Alkazian expects, “We can hopefully bring these numbers down by spreading the word, awareness and tools. We just believe that this is a conversation that needs to continue.”

Michelle Rothman, NPHS sophomore, hopes the event will ignite what she feels is a much needed conversation surrounding the topic of mental health. Rothman herself has anxiety and holds the pressures from school, social media, parents and “life in general” responsible for the large number of teens who suffer from some form of the disorder.

Rothman hopes that the parents who attended the event “learned how to help their children with anxiety instead of pressuring them even more.”

“I hope people with anxiety learned more about their condition and what they can do to help themselves or others,” she concluded.