A solo comedy show in which writer and performer Sophie Winter plays all the parts, including her boss, her mum, her best friend and 90s TV star Anneka Rice, Don't Panic! It's Challenge Anneka is all about anxiety. It uses humour and silliness to demystify and start conversations about a serious subject.
Sophie worries to a debilitating extent, making daily life incredibly difficult. The people around her don't understand the panic she regularly feels, advising that what she really needs to do is pull herself together and get on with it. Sophie even berates herself – she's a privileged young woman from Hampshire who has suffered no traumas of note. She has a job, a decent income and a roof over her head, what has she got to be so anxious about? Her guilt only makes her feel worse.
Anxiety disorders, which often manifest as excessive worry, fear and a tendency to avoid potentially stressful situations, are some of the most common mental health problems we experience. Modern life is anxiety inducing, but the fight or flight response is ancient. When a human believes they are in danger, their breath shortens, their heart beats faster, they sweat – all symptoms of a panic attack.
After Edinburgh, Don't Panic! It's Challenge Anneka will tour secondary schools, running workshops exploring mental health for students in Year 9 and above. This makes sense, as young people are most likely to experience anxiety. A global review of existing scientific literature by the University of Cambridge published in June this year found that four in every 100 people experience anxiety disorders, with women and people under 35 affected the most.
The literature review highlighted the need for more research, especially into how anxiety affects marginalised groups. Dr Louise Lafortune, Senior Research Associate at the Cambridge Institute of Public Health, says: 'Anxiety disorders affect a lot of people and can lead to impairment, disability, and risk of suicide. Although many groups have examined this important topic, significant gaps in research remain.' (HB)
Don't Panic! It's Challenge Anneka is on at Summerhall (venue 26) until 28 August (not 22nd). See venue for accessibility information - https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/don-t-panic-it-s-challenge-anneka
Anxiety UK: https://www.anxietyuk.org.uk
'Women and people under the age of 35 at greatest risk of anxiety': http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/women-and-people-under-the-age-of-35-at-greatest-risk-of-anxiety
'Living with anxiety: Britain's silent epidemic': https://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/sep/15/anxiety-epidemic-gripping-britain
'Anxiety: the epidemic sweeping through Generation Y': http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/health/anxiety-the-epidemic-sweeping-through-generation-y/
'How It Actually Feels to Live with Severe Anxiety': http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/anxiety-and-me-189
It Affects Me: http://www.itaffectsme.co.uk