by Raegan Cleary
Last month, Vogue premiered Open-Minded: Unpacking Anxiety a YouTube series where Kendall Jenner opens up about her struggles with anxiety. While the intent was nice, overall I feel the series missed the mark a little bit. While mental illness exists at any level of privilege and income, it’s important to realize that having money and access to treatment is a luxury not everyone suffering from a mental illness can afford. Right off the bat, Jenner mentions that she’s privileged, but doesn’t go as far as relating her privilege to her ability to seek treatment.
In the first episode of the series, Jenner sits down with Dr. Ramani Durvasula, a licensed clinical psychologist and professor of psychology. They talk about Jenner’s struggle with anxiety and panic attacks, which started when the model was about eight or nine years old. Dr. Durvasula mentions that nearly every patient she’s seen has dealt with some form of anxiety, but it’s important to know the difference between feeling a little anxious and having an anxiety disorder.
She then goes on to compare anxiety to “the bends” in scuba diving, and how ascending too quickly can cause a multitude of physical symptoms. I thought this was a great comparison to what a panic attack could feel like and I think that analogy could be helpful to others. Dr. Durvasula also mentioned that once upon a time being a little anxious is what kept people alive and told them “tiger’s coming” or “don’t eat those berries.” However, Jenner goes as far as to call her anxiety “beautiful.” I’m not sure if I would call being too anxious to eat or having a panic attack every time you go to the doctor’s office beautiful, and I get it, sort of. When you suffer from an anxiety disorder you have to do your best to cope with it, but words like “beautiful” and “intuitive” add to the trope that anxiety disorders can be cute and quirky and not debilitating.
Episode two focuses on social media and anxiety. Like I mentioned in my previous article about Khloe Kardashian and body image- it’s hard to take Jenner seriously on this topic when these issues are something she and her family helped create. She blames the audience for coming up with false narratives but how is anyone supposed to know what’s real when everything is smoothed down and laced up in a waist trainer while drinking Flat Tummy Tea.
The third and penultimate episode focuses on how to be an ally to those suffering from anxiety disorders. In this episode, Jenner sits down with Dr. Curley Bonds, Psychiatrist and Chief Medical Officer at the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health, and talks about how you can help those with anxiety disorders. Dr. Bonds talks about different treatment methods including non-medicated treatments like creating routines or meditation but also mentions that some more severe cases may require medication.
Another topic that was brought up was how those who have experience dealing with anxiety disorders can help those who have just begun feeling symptoms. Jenner talks about how she’s been able to help others in the industry that have begun feeling the way she has, including her own sister Kylie. Overall this episode had the most useful information and didn’t feel like I could use Google and get the same information.
The final episode focused on how anxiety affects Jenner’s day-to-day life. It starts with Jenner talking directly to the camera about her anxiety will have her hyperfocus on whatever she’s nervous about (like public speaking for example) and how she won’t be able to shake that feeling until after it’s over. Personally, I liked this section of the video and it seemed to be the rawest Jenner had gotten talking about her mental health. I wish there was more of this type of footage. The rest could sometimes seem a little too polished, almost like it was her anxiety’s equivalent of an Instagram feed. Neatly polished and edited into perfectly square boxes. I would have loved a more behind-the-scenes type feeling instead.
. Following the rest of the videos, Jenner sits down with another expert, this time psychotherapist and New York Times bestselling author Lori Gottlieb. Jenner goes into further detail about her anxiety, calling it doomsday and explaining that she is always preparing for the worst. Gottlieb then goes on to educate Jenner and the audience on when this participatory anxiety becomes a problem, while also reassuring everyone it’s okay to feel a little nervous before a big event. Gottlieb also points out different coping strategies and even lets the viewers at home know that anxiety can even affect their memory. Like the previous episode, I felt like this one had some useful information. However, I’m not sure if this series really achieved what Vogue wanted to do.
In many ways, I was actually pleasantly surprised at the information that was provided, although I don’t think it would be that helpful to people struggling with anxiety. It felt like it was more for people who didn’t have anxiety to learn about it and help others, which isn’t a bad thing, but not really what Vogue intended this series to be. I wish they got more in-depth though because a lot of the content felt very surface level. I would love to see this become a regular series outside of mental illness awareness month and have celebrities and influencers across all industries talk about their struggles with anxiety and other mental illnesses.