Unmasking Anxiety

The Jewish News
Joyce Wiswell

Joyce Wiswell

The silhouette of a head pointing left is made up of black and blue hands. Above the head reads "spotlight on," and in the head reads "teen mental health."
Shining the Light: Spotlight on Teen Mental Health logo

Program to feature film and panel to raise awareness of anxiety disorders.

Anxiety has become as much a part of teenage life as going to prom and learning to drive, and mental health professionals say it’s essential to raise awareness. That’s the mission of a movie night and panel discussion presented by the Jewish Community Center’s Opening the Doors program on Sunday, March 18.

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Jessica Purtan Harrell
Jessica Purtan Harrell

The evening at Adat Shalom Synagogue in Farmington Hills includes a screening of the documentary Angst: Raising Awareness Around Anxiety and a panel discussion with five professionals emphasizing the film’s message that anxiety disorders are real, common and treatable — and need to be talked about.

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Lori Blumenstein-Bott
Lori Blumenstein-Bott

“This is super-relevant. Anxiety affects nearly one-third of adults and adolescents,” said Jessica Purtan Harrell, Ph.D., a psychologist who specializes in OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) with a private practice in Farmington Hills. “What I see in my practice is an overwhelming pressure for young people to perform academically, athletically, professionally and on social media, and the competition seems to be getting stronger every year. It’s much more prevalent than in the past, and there is also more reporting of it.”

Another panelist, Lori Blumenstein-Bott, MSW, LMSW, agrees. “Anxiety has taken over our young people and is creating all sorts of havoc,” said the executive director of the Andrew Kukes Foundation for Social Anxiety in West Bloomfield.

Rabbi Yarden Blumstein
Rabbi Yarden Blumstein

“This movie is really well done and this is the perfect event for teens to attend. They don’t have to talk or participate but can take things in at their own pace. Just that ability to talk about mental health issues in middle school and high school makes it easier for them to consider moving forward with treatment.” 

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Other panelists include Rabbi Yarden Blumstein, teen director of the Friendship Circle; Perry Ohren, chief executive officer of Jewish Family Service of Metropolitan Detroit; and Rabbi Jeremy Baruch, M.D., psychiatry resident at Michigan Medicine.

Ellen Maiseeloff
Ellen Maiseeloff

Ellen Maiseloff, M.A., senior director of special needs at Opening the Doors, said two lay organizations asked her to show Angst as part of Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month, which began in February and has spilled over into March.

“This is part of our mission of empowering, inspiring and supporting our children and families,” Maiseloff said. “The documentary shows how people can be empowered and seek help. We would love to have teens attend as well as parents, teachers, social workers and mental health professionals.”

Perry Ohren
Perry Ohren

Blumenstein-Bott hopes the event raises awareness about the pressures young people face “to push it out more so it’s not talked about in hushed tones.”

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Purtan Harrell said attendees will learn a lot about anxiety and ways to treat it. “This program will let people know there are options beyond medication, such as exposure-based therapy,” she said. “Therapy and medication can work beautifully together.”

Rabbi Jeremy Baruch, M.D.
Rabbi Jeremy Baruch, M.D.

Doors open at 6 p.m. for registration. The 56-minute film screens at 7 p.m. and the panel discussion and dessert follow. There will also be a resource fair with information tables from sponsors. Admission is $5. For more information, contact Shoshana Baruch at (248) 432-5543 or sbaruch@jccdet.org.

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