‘Anxious Nation’ to screen at Coronado Island Film Festival

Laura Morton
(Linda Loeffler)

“Anxious Nation,” a documentary by filmmaker Laura Morton, will screen at the Coronado Island Film Festival Nov. 12 at 1 p.m.

Morton, who lives in Cardiff, said her experiences with her daughter inspired the film, in which families, particularly children, share their struggles with anxiety and mental health issues.

“I felt like we were putting all the tools in the toolbox, I felt like we were giving her everything she needed but she just wasn’t getting better,” Morton said. “I was frustrated, I was confused and I thought it was just us.”

She connected through Facebook with other families going through the same thing. That led to the idea for the documentary, which aims to instill a sense of hope that anxiety can be managed.

Production of the documentary coincided with the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, which exacerbated mental health issues such as anxiety among children, who were suddenly isolated from their schools and usual social activities.

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy issued a warning in December 2021 about a youth mental health crisis. He said in a statement that “an alarming number of young people struggled with feelings of helplessness, depression, and thoughts of suicide — and rates have increased over the past decade.”

Even before the pandemic, statistics have shown more and more children have been experiencing mental health issues.

“As a storyteller by trade, I just felt like there was something here,” Morton said. “I wanted to understand more about this and why anxiety was showing up, how it was showing up, and what we could do.”

Vanessa Roth, who lives in Del Mar, served as director and writer for “Anxious Nation.” She said “we just really bonded around the fact that we were both moms of kids who had struggled a lot with anxiety.”

Vanessa Roth
(Devorah Palladino)

“Laura came back to me after they had shot and assembled the footage together,” Roth said. “At that point she really was looking for some more structure and some more visual ideas and some more creative ideas, and how to create something that wasn’t going to be just a clinical talking head film, because she had spent so much great time with these families and their stories really deserved something that felt empathetic and relatable.”

Roth was also recognized as the festival’s Humanitarian Award recipient for her work on Anxious Nation and other social impact films and projects.

Students from multiple schools, including Earl Warren Middle School, provided artwork for “Anxious Nation.”

“You can walk away from this film knowing that it’s not just you, it’s not just your kid, it’s not just your parents,” Morton said. “So many families are going through this, and there’s hope. Hope that this does not define who you are.”

For more information about the film and festival screenings, visit