In the latest episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians Kendall Jenner offers a closer look at her “crippling” anxiety and hints at plans to skip Paris Fashion Week.
The focus on mental health begins with the 22-year-old’s mom, Kris Jenner, fielding a panic-driven phone call from Kendall and offering to take her to the hospital. “Kendall struggles from anxiety, and I think she has so much going on that she gets herself really worked up,” Jenner’s mom says in the episode. “[She] gets the most anxious during Fashion Week or when she’s traveling a lot. Milan is coming up and trying to juggle it all is overwhelming.”
In a conversation on camera shortly thereafter between Kris and Kendall, Kendall recounts the things that have fueled her anxiety, such as her sister Kim Kardashian getting robbed, fending off her own stalker, and facing pressure on social media. “It’s hard just to get your brain to slow down,” the supermodel says. “I think now that I can sit here and can verbally say that, it will help me take the time [to] really address it.”
The episode continues by showing Jenner in the midst of a sound-bath practice, which has anecdotally shown to be capable of relieving anxiety. When the practitioner asks which part of Jenner’s body needs tension relief, she answers her head. “I like feel distant and out of it all the time and like my anxiety is just crazy and that’s it.”
Afterwards, Jenner recounts the experience to older sister Kim, who brings up Fashion Week. “So you’re not going to Paris?” Kardashian asks. “I don’t think so,” Jenner replies. “I wasn’t gonna do Milan, but my agents we’re like, ‘You should do Milan and then if you don’t want to do one of them, just don’t do Paris,” Jenner answers, adding that her mom is attending in Milan, but she wants to stay “low key.”
If Jenner does sit out Paris, it won’t be the first time. In 2016, the then-20-year-old skipped London, Paris, and Milan. While there has been speculation in the past that she’s skipped out for anxiety, Sunday’s episode confirmed that it’s a condition that affects her ability to do work. “Anxiety is all mental, so you have to try and find your way around it,” says Jenner. “I try and maintain it, but sometimes it’s out of your control.” Milan Fashion Week begins in a few days, but Kendall’s Instagram makes it look like the model is taking a little break, since yesterday she shared a picture of herself on a family ski trip.
While there are many issues the Kardashian-Jenner crew experience that aren’t relatable, this mental health condition isn’t one of them. Anxiety extends far beyond supermodels, and the inability to work as a result does too.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 19.1 percent of U.S. adults have experienced an anxiety disorder in the past year, and more than 30 percent in their lifetime. Of the more than 45 million who experienced it in the last year, 22.8 percent reported “severe impairment.” Calculated using the Sheehan Disability Scale, this statistic means that millions experience anxiety so paralyzing that it disrupts their ability to function normally at work.
While researchers haven’t pinpointed one specific cause, a host of studies have shown at least some genetic link to the disorder. Anxiety can be linked to a traumatic event — which is also shown to fuel depression — or can spring from underlying medical conditions such as chronic pain or heart conditions. But anxiety can appear in otherwise healthy people, with no identifiable stressors (a condition most commonly referred to as GAD, generalized anxiety disorder).
If any of that sounds familiar, here’s the good news. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a civil rights law that dates back to the ’90s, mental and psychiatric disorders qualify as disabilities. This means that if you work at a private employer with more than 15 employees, your company is required by law to help you — and cannot dock your pay or discriminate against you while doing so.
The ADA refers to this as the “right to reasonable accommodation” and defines it as “modifications to the physical structure of your workspace, changes to your job, exceptions to usual work policies or rules, or other changes that will allow you to do your job.” This might mean a modified schedule, lighter workload, or time off (paid or unpaid) in order to seek treatment. A written diagnosis is not required but may be requested by an employer.
In even more severe situations, an individual can request an extended leave of absence (up to 12 weeks) through the Family and Medical Leave Act. To qualify, an employee must work at a private-sector employer with more than 50 employees and have been an employee for at least 12 months.
Companies require written documentation, in this case from a psychiatrist, but the exact details of a condition need not be shared. Employers are not allowed to ask specifics about the condition itself. Health insurance coverage is required to continue, by law. Whether or not an employee gets paid for this time is up to the employer’s discretion, but either way, the company is required to have the same job waiting when the person returns.
So while Kendall Jenner’s decision to stay off the Paris runways may be disappointing for fashion houses and fans, it’s a decidedly great call in terms of her mental health. If you or someone you know is experiencing debilitating symptoms from a mental illness, don’t hesitate to follow her lead.
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