Pleasanton parents host 'Angst' screening in son's memory | News | |


Pleasanton parents host 'Angst' screening in son's memory

Nimmos want to spur conversation on anxiety, spread message that 'it's OK not to be OK'

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Anxiety is part of being human, a knot that affects people at different levels, in different scenarios. We accept it, and brush it off; often we're encouraged to bury it deep within us so as not to burden others.

But just over a month ago, anxiety led to Amador Valley High School freshman Zachary Nimmo's death. And so in his memory, and as part of their new mission to spur more conversations surrounding mental health, his parents Mannie and Steve Nimmo are hosting a screening and panel discussion of the documentary "Angst" on Monday at a Livermore church.

"We saw this film two days before he passed," Steve said. "It really spoke well, it spoke about all the signs, all the symptoms. When we saw it, we were like, 'That's Zachary.' It really described him well. But we only had a few days to really react to it.

"So that's why we're dedicated to preventing anyone from going through this. It's excruciating pain."

Zachary was a 14-year-old who loved fishing, his friends, soccer, lacrosse and gaming, his parents said.

"His friends called him a hybrid because he was half athlete, and then he was a self-proclaimed geek," Steve said.

He added, "You always knew who Zachary was, he didn't have a fake face. But what he did have was severe anxiety." Anxiety, according to the American Psychological Association, is "an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure."

Zachary was diagnosed with anxiety last summer, though the Nimmos say that he had been struggling for a while. He started withdrawing from his friends, stopped participating in team sports and spent more time alone.

"The symptoms were there, but we weren't educated," Mannie said.

"They blamed it on his thyroid, they blamed it on being a teen," Steve said. "They just thought he was shy. And all along it was a mask of anxiety."

He started seeing a psychiatrist over the summer, and seemed to be making progress. But he still struggled, and on Oct. 26, he died by suicide.

"You never know what's going on in someone's mind...The day he passed, which was a Friday, that day he actually stood up for a friend who was being bullied," Steve said. "A friend who's got some issues of his own, others were picking on him and then Zachary sought him out. That's more who Zachary was, right? If more people could live like that, we'd be in a much better place."

The ensuing weeks have been hard; they're just taking it day by day, Mannie said. Neighbors have rallied, though -- the community arranged everything for his Celebration of Life, which was attended by around 550 people. And so many friends have just been there to listen, to be a stalwart support for whatever they need, be it talking or crying.

A few days before Zachary's death, the Nimmos had seen "Angst" -- the parents during the city of Pleasanton's community screening and Zachary in his health class. The film is produced by IndieFlix, a company that produces and globally screens films that aim to create a positive social impact.

When she saw the film, Mannie said, she recognized the symptoms in herself as well. "But he was much, much worse," she said of her son.

The hour-long film was specifically made by Scilla Andreen, CEO and co-founder of IndieFlix. A friend of hers had approached her about creating a film about mental health, but Andreen had said no -- it was too heavy of a topic, and she didn't want to touch it.

"She ended up dying by suicide," Andreen said. "She had been asking for about a year to make a movie about mental health, and I didn't. I kind of pride myself on being able to read people, and am super empathetic. And I realized how mental health is invisible and silent. So I decided I would make a movie about mental health."

The documentary features interviews with teens, parents and celebrities, who share personal stories of how anxiety has touched their lives. A key component of the IndieFlix film screenings is the discussion afterwards, Andreen said.

"I think film is actually one of the most powerful mediums on the planet," she said. "Especially when you watch in a group. The reason we take it into schools and communities, and we don't just put it online on IndieFlix, is because watching in an existing community where you witness each other watching it and then have an open conversation -- you've just identified a community and a network and your people that you could go to."

This idea of having more conversations surrounding mental health and anxiety, and "being OK not being OK," is at the crux of what the Nimmos hope to do moving forward, in the next chapter of their lives.

Steve, Mannie and their daughter Samantha, a senior at Amador, are all spending time talking to therapists and pastors right now, they said.

"We want others to know that it's OK to go do that," Steve said. "There's nothing wrong with seeking someone to listen. And it doesn't have to be a doctor." Making this their mission going forward keeps them closer to their son, he said.

In addition to hosting screenings of "Angst," they are in the process of setting up a foundation in Zachary's name to work with schools and youth organizations to continue the conversations on mental health and anxiety.

Monday's event will begin at 6:30 p.m. at CrossWinds Church, 1660 Freisman Road in Livermore, and will include a screening of the film followed by a panel discussion involving Andreen, the Nimmos, a PUSD school counselor and some mental health professionals. This screening is sold-out, but another one is planned for February.

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29 people like this
Posted by EJ
a resident of Birdland
on Dec 5, 2018 at 8:17 pm

I'm sorry to hear the tragic reason why this family is hosting this film screening. So many people suffer and it's important to educate and talk about it more. It will help others and I thank them for that. RIP Zachary.

21 people like this
Posted by Spudly
a resident of Laguna Oaks
on Dec 6, 2018 at 9:53 am

Thank you Nimmo family for helping others in light of your tragedy.

To all parents who think "my kid is ok" and "my child wouldn't do that." TALK to your kids...more are vaping, experiencing anxiety, and are most likely exploring the world in more ways than you think.

11 people like this
Posted by ConcernedParent
a resident of Stoneridge
on Dec 6, 2018 at 10:23 am

PUSD should be held responsible for the bullying and stressful environment festering in the Pleasanton schools, particularly at Amador. Last year, there were instances of PUSD student/s bullied by a teacher and the entire school district acted to protect itself, and no action was ever taken by the district. That is why, for those who know, Amador Valley High School is notorious with stress, anxiety, performance issues due to the poor quality of teachers and administrators. The school administrators should be held responsible.

I feel tragic for the Nimmo family. No family should ever go through what they have gone through. What an example they are setting for the entire community in coping with the tragedy and bettering the lives of others.

21 people like this
Posted by Christina Nystrom
a resident of Walnut Grove Elementary School
on Dec 6, 2018 at 6:58 pm

I am so sorry for the Nimmo's loss. I am so impressed with their candor - I appreciate that they are talking about anxiety and how we, as a community, can help kids (and adults) cope with anxiety. It is a problem that won't go away and it's something that has always plagued our community - and every community.

When tragedy happens, I always wonder what I can do. It's easy to feel helpless with suicides, fires, earthquakes, youth death, shootings ... there's a lot of bad things going on in the world. But, I know what I can do - every day to make the world a better place. I can smile at people. I can look kids (and adults) in the eye and listen to them, so they feel heard. I can ask how they are doing, and wait for the response. I can put down my phone/apps/social media, and have real connections with real humans.

I have plenty of thoughts about how we can make life better for our kids. But right now, I want to express my sincere condolences to the Nimmo family and sincere appreciation that they are using this tragedy to help other kids. I don't know them, but I appreciate them.

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