Bexley Be Well: A Community Conversation, a citywide initiative focusing on mental health, especially among youth, started Sept. 4 with a panel discussion at Bexley High School's Schottenstein Theater.

The initiative includes the participation of the Bexley City Schools, the city of Bexley, the Bexley Public Library, Capital University, Columbus School for Girls, Nationwide Children's Hospital, the Bexley Area Chamber of Commerce, Gramercy Books and Bexley Recreation and Parks Preschool.

The discussion featured a panel of mental health experts and a screening of the documentary "Angst." The film explores the experiences of young people coping with anxiety and offers strategies on how to overcome the condition.

Moderator Angela An, a WBNS-10TV anchor, said the discussion was designed to help parents better communicate with their children. She said she personally benefited from the discussion.

"I wanted to have the tools to be able to guide my own daughter through her life and be able to handle whatever comes her way," An said.

"I feel like that's my goal as a parent."

Panelist Kamilah Twymon, clinical coordinator of school-based services at Nationwide Children's Hospital, said she has a child who has been diagnosed with anxiety and has experienced firsthand how to help children cope.

"The best thing to do is to be there, to be present, to listen," Twymon said. "As parents, a lot of times the first thing we want to do is 'fix it,' and that creates a bit more anxiety because we're asking a lot more questions that will make them more anxious. ... One of the things we can say is, 'Tell me more,' and just be there and be present."

Kitty Soldana, a retired psychiatrist with the Ohio State University Medical Center, said allowing children to talk about their feelings is key.

Soldana said emphasis should be on "the importance of talking about it, of not holding it in, of being able to share it with a parent."

Matt Dunatchik, a psychotherapist with Gestalt Columbus, said parents should set an example by communicating with their children when they're facing challenges themselves.

"Parents being able to model when they have a good day or a rough day and being able to share their inner worlds with their children has so much more power than parents realize," he said.

"And it helps model for children how to do this, how to talk, and they feel that support from their parents as well, so they can come to their parents later."

Dr. James MacDonald, a clinical associate professor of pediatrics and family medicine at Ohio State and a pediatric sports medicine specialist at Nationwide Children's Hospital who also serves as Bexley High School's athletics team physician, said parents shouldn't place undue pressure on their children to succeed.

"This generation is expected far too often by us (parents) to be getting college scholarships, to be going to the Olympics, etc.," MacDonald said.

"Whatever pressure that kid may feel coming from a parent, that's its own issue."

Future events include a community book read through Oct. 5 of "What Made Maddy Run" by Kate Fagan.

Fagan will speak at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 6 in the Schottenstein Theater, 326 S. Cassingham Road.

Lisa Damour, author of "Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls," will appear Nov. 21 at CSG, 65 S. Drexel Ave.

The Bexley Education Foundation and Bexley Community Foundation are providing financial support for events, according to the Bexley school district's website.

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