Kate Spade’s Tragic Death Shows Us Speaking Up About Mental Health Is More Important Than Ever

The world was shocked when iconic fashion designer Kate Spade was found dead in her Manhattan apartment. Little by little, more details are being released that show Spade’s life was not at all what it seemed. And it has opened up a much bigger conversation: We are far from ending mental illness stigmas.

Read on for a look into Spade’s life, including some tragic details revealed by her sister (pages 4 and 5).

Spade rose to fame with her fashion empire in the 1990s

Kate Spade and Andy Spade at an event.

Kate Spade created an iconic empire. | Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images

Kate Spade and her husband, Andy Spade, launched Kate Spade New York in 1993 in their New York City apartment. Spade quickly rose to fame with her colorful, upbeat handbags and accessories. It was the bag every young woman wanted. Both Chelsea Clinton and Jenna Bush said they got their first Kate Spade bags in college. But Spade’s sister wrote in a statement that the skyrocket to fame took a toll on Spade’s mental health and led to bipolar disorder.

Next: Spade’s life ended tragically on June 5, 2018. 

At 55 years old, Kate Spade died of an apparent suicide

Kate Spade on a red carpet in a black dress.

The fashion community lost an important icon. | Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

In June 2018, Spade was discovered in her Park Avenue, Manhattan apartment by her housekeeper. She was found unconscious in the bedroom. Spade died of an apparent suicide by hanging; reports said she used a scarf. What followed was a media frenzy and lots of confusion about something nobody saw coming. But the tragedy with suicide is that people often are fighting in silence — and Spade was no exception.

Next: Spade’s suicide note had one person in mind. 

She left a note telling her 13-year-old daughter this was not her fault

Kate Spade smiling on a red carpet.

Kate Spade | Evan Agostini/Getty Images

Spade’s death came with a suicide note addressed to her 13-year-old daughter, Frances Beatrix Spade. The child was at school when her mother was found. The contents of the note have not been released, but CBS reports that in the note, Spade told her daughter none of this was her fault. Spade’s family released a statement saying they’re devastated by the tragedy and loved her dearly.

Next: Spade’s sister said her life was not at all what it seemed. 

Her sister said Spade had severe depression and alcoholism

Kate Spade in a purple dress at an event.

Kate Spade | Amy Sussman/Getty Images

Spade’s sister, Reta Saffo, sent an email to the Kansas City Star giving a little more background information about Spade’s mental health. Saffo said her sister had a “debilitating” mental illness for the past few years. And she had recently turned to alcohol to self-medicate. Saffo said she wanted her sister to enter a rehab facility, but Spade thought it would taint the “happy-go-lucky” image of her line.

Next: Spade’s sister said this sad event may have been Spade’s “inspiration.”

Spade’s sister says Robin Williams’ suicide may have been her ‘inspiration’

Robin Williams wearing a grey coat.

Robin Williams | Carl Court/AFP/Getty Images

Saffo recalled when Spade was fixated on Robin Williams’ suicide by hanging back in 2014. She said Spade could not get enough of it; she was watching coverage over and over again. “I think there was a plan even as far back as then,” Saffo said in her email. Williams’ shocking death made headlines, and experts say his Parkinson’s diagnosis likely played a role.

Next: Mental health has become more discussed than ever, but it is still an uphill battle. 

In recent years, advocates have tried to end the stigmas surrounding mental illness

A woman standing in the dark.

The mental health stigma is becoming less negative. | Kieferpix/iStock/Getty Images

For years, mental illness was not discussed. Those who needed help didn’t seek it because they knew they’d be labeled “crazy” or “disturbed.” But recently, efforts have been made to end the stigma. Celebrities, corporations, and more have encouraged talking openly about issues, such as anxiety and depression. Logic’s song “1-800-273-8255,” named for the suicide hotline, gained popularity in late 2017 for its positive message about mental health.

Next: Workplaces have become more open about mental health and work-life balance. 

Workplaces have created more relaxed policies to promote a better work-life balance

A therapist speaking to a young woman.

A mental health expert can guide you through recovery. | Monkeybusinessimages/ iStock/Getty Images Plus

Years ago, the stress of working every day didn’t matter. But today, companies have made an effort to promote mental health and remind their employees that vacation time and mental health days are necessary. In 2017, one employee’s email from her boss went viral when he praised her for taking two days off to focus on her mental health. Workplaces have begun offering relaxed vacation policies, summer Fridays, and more to create a better work-life balance and end the mental health stigma.

Next: Despite conversation, Spade’s death shows the battle is far from over. 

But Spade’s death shows we are far from ending the stigmas

Kate Spade walking into a building.

Kate Spade | Evan Agostini/Getty Images

Despite efforts being made, a lot more discussion is still needed. Spade’s death sheds light on the idea that how someone presents themselves is not always how happy they actually are. Spade’s sister said Spade thought rehab would affect her image; it is clear the mental health discussion is far from over. Novelist Brad Meltzer once said, “Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind, always.”

If you or someone you know have depression or suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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