Real and relatable

28 June 2021

The narrative around mental health in popular culture has changed over the last few years. Industries previously associated with ‘perfectionism’ have perhaps accepted a responsibility to destigmatise and create a new conversation. One example is the ‘Open Minded’ series, launched in May 2021 on YouTube by Vogue in partnership with Dr Ramani Durvasula and Kendall Jenner. I found it to be a breath of fresh air, with relatable accounts of mental health realities presented in an accessible way.

The four-part series raises awareness of anxiety and depict the reality of the condition, through the eyes and experiences of popular reality star Kendall Jenner. She reviews her condition – with a focus on panic attacks, social media addiction and how anxiety can be debilitating to everyday life – alongside the expertise of clinical psychologist Dr Durvasula. Kendall’s honest and open account, partnered with professional understanding, made for a heart-warming  and educational series. 

Dr Durvasula noted that despite the breadth of work she has done, nearly all her clients have had presentations of anxiety. Everyone is on a continuum from manageable to clinically significant anxiety, and many people feel ‘alone with this’. A stand-out moment for me was when Kendall detailed times “where I feel like I need to be rushed to the hospital because I think my heart's failing and I can't breathe and I need someone to help me”. I have suffered from anxiety myself, so it was refreshing to hear someone in her public position talk about how physical the symptoms can be. Dr Durvasula further explained that “Panic is a miscommunication in the brain”, which I found a simple and powerful way to explain the condition.

It remains a common misconception that money, success, or fame makes you somehow immune to mental health struggles. Kendall noted that as her fame increased, her mental health took a hit. “I think being overworked and being in the situation that I'm in now is kind of what set it out of control, in a way,” she said. People ask her “what do you have to be anxious about?”, and reflecting on her privilege she added: “I'll never sit here and say that I'm not fortunate. I know I live a very privileged, amazing lifestyle. I'm a very blessed girl, I'm still a human being at the end of the day… No matter what someone has or doesn't have, it doesn't mean that they don't have real-life feelings and emotions”. That adds a great sense of perspective.

Another powerful moment for me was Kendall’s reflections on the pandemic. It was no surprise that the last year or so has had a serious impact on a lot of people’s mental health, but ‘re-opening’ anxiety is perhaps less often spoken about. Kendall admitted she had actually found benefits in isolation, having previously been “really overwhelmed, really overworked” and “always around people”. Now, though, “If I go to a dinner or if I see a few more of my friends than I'm used to seeing throughout this last year, that gives me anxiety”. Dr Durvasula used the analogy, “If you are scuba diving, if you come up to fast you get sick” – let’s ease ourselves back into the ‘new normal’. 

- The full interview can be found at Kendall Jenner Opens Up About Her Anxiety | Open Minded | Session 1 | Vogue - YouTube with further episodes in the series also available on YouTube.