Written by: Hannah LeClerc, Medical Psychology Center Intern, Salem State University
Designer and entrepreneur Kate Spade was found dead in her New York home on Tuesday, June 5th due to an apparent suicide. A note was left at the scene that addressed her daughter and husband. Family members are shocked and heartbroken, just as is much of the fashion industry and fans of her billion dollar brand. Kate’s husband, Andy Spade, said he had no indication that his wife had planned to take her life. They had been living apart for the last 10 months, but there were no talks of getting divorced. One of Spade’s close friends, Elyce Arons, states how “Katy was very happy most of the time, the funniest person in the world, and sometimes she would get really sad”. Arons also reported to the New York times that Spade had made it clear very times that “[she] would never do that”, in regards to taking her own life.
Kate Spade choosing to end her life embodies the misconception that if you have money and fame, you are supposed to be happy. This misconception is just one of the many stigmas regarding mental health and mental illness that have become popular in our society. Unfortunately, money and fame do not immunize a person from suffering from a mental illness. Depression is not discriminatory.
Spade's sister, Rita Saffo, told New York Times that Kate was afraid of getting help because she felt it would damage her brand and reputation. The fact that Kate recognized she needed help but refused to seek it due to societal stigma and industry expectations is why we need to change the conversation about mental health. Guilt and embarrassment should not be the feelings someone experiences when they are thinking of seeking mental health services. Having a mental illness and admitting that you are struggling should not be associated with weakness. Tragedies like this can be avoided, but this means changing the negative connotation our culture has around mental illness and self care.
Kate was not weak and she was not broken. She was a beautiful, intelligent and innovative business woman that was internally struggling. People often fail to reach out when they need help the most, especially if they feel they will be shamed because of it. Changing the conversation begins with you. Think about what you share on social media regarding mental illness, how you talk about mental illness with your friends and family, and challenge your biases about what it means when someone is mentally ill.
If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the free 24/7 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, call 911 or go to your nearest emergency services provider. You are worth helping. Your life is worth living
Friedman, V. (2018, June 06). Kate Spade's Death: 'There Was No Indication and No Warning,' Says Her Husband. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/06/style/kate-spade-husband-andy-spade.html
Levenson, E., & Gingras, B. (2018, June 05). Designer Kate Spade found dead in apparent suicide. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2018/06/05/us/kate-spade-dead/index.html
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