‘Anxious Nation’ film holds screening for Mental Health Awareness Month in May

"Anxious Nation" documents the mental health issues
“Anxious Nation” documents the mental health issues that children and their families are dealing with at an increasingly frequent level.
(Anxious Nation)

The documentary “Anxious Nation” by Cardiff filmmaker Laura Morton held two screenings in San Diego on May 15 to coincide with Mental Health Awareness Month.

Morton’s 14-year-old daughter Sevey inspired the film, which shows families describing their struggles in overcoming anxiety and other mental health issues.

“I thought what was happening in our home was only happening in our home, and that was 2018 when I started to make the movie,” Morton said. “My daughter has been a part of and very supportive of making this film. At any time, if she didn’t want to be in it she didn’t have to be in it. But she’s extremely proud of being in this film with the idea that if her story helps just one kid, it’s worth it for her to be so vulnerable.”

A Facebook post also served as a catalyst for the film. In 2019, Morton posted: “Kids and Anxiety, who is struggling with it?” The responses, both in the comments and through private messages, demonstrated how strongly the subject matter resonated with so many families.

“We did it so other families could benefit and have a resource,” Morton said.

The surgeon general issued a warning in December 2021 about the mental health crisis facing the nation’s youth. But even before the pandemic started, statistics have shown an uptick in children experiencing mental health issues. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for example, has reported that about 5% of children ages 6 to 17 had depression or anxiety in 2003 before rising to a little more than 8% in 2011 to 2012.

The San Diego screenings took place in the Angelika Film Center at Carmel Mountain and Reading Cinemas Town Square. Several other screenings took place in cities including Sacramento, New York, Boston, Honolulu, Albuquerque and Washington, D.C.

“They feel seen and heard,” Morton said. “They can hold on to something and feel like it’s not just happening to them, they’re not alone.”

The documentary’s local ties include Del Mar resident Vanessa Roth, who served as director and writer. Roth was recognized at the Coronado Island Film Festival last year with the Humanitarian Award for her work on “Anxious Nation” and other projects that had a social impact.

Roth, a mother of three, wrote in her director’s statement that the film was “too close to home.”

“I have witnessed my children grow up in an era that has heavily burdened them with the weight of the legacy of social, political, and environmental issues, and the onslaught of new technology,” she wrote.

Artwork for “Anxious Nation” came from multiple schools, including Earl Warren Middle School.

For more information about the film and the schedule of screenings, visit anxiousnation.com.