Kate Spade & Celebrity Suicide: A Reminder That Mental Illness Does Not Discriminate

On June 5, 2018, it was reported that Kate Spade had died of an apparent suicide in her New York City apartment at the age of 55. She leaves behind a husband, 13-year-old daughter, family, friends, and tons of loyal followers in the fashion industry.  Often when a celebrity dies by suicide, many often wonder why. They have everything they could ever want, and all the money in the world, why suicide? How can they be that unhappy? But in the days following a celebrity’s death after a suicide, we often learn that they were in fact dealing with a mental illness privately. And in this case, in the days following her death, we have come to find out that Kate Spade did experience depression and anxiety for many years and was actively seeking help.

Nearly half of those who died by suicide had a known mental health condition, according to the CDC.

The thing about mental illness is this: it does not discriminate based on race, class, gender, etc. As a society, we tend to have this picture or image of what someone looks like that has a mental illness. In the cases of Kate Spade, Robin Williams, and other celebrities, this image does not apply. If there is one thing we can learn from this, it is to pay closer attention to those around us and look for the signs of depression and suicide. You can’t always tell just by looking at someone that they are depressed or have other mental health issues.

Do you know the signs that someone may be suicidal? Sometimes, they can be subtle things brought up in conversation. Here are some things that those who have been suicidal (themighty.com) have said in conversation that was actually their code for, “I’m suicidal.”

  • “I’m just tired.”
  • “I just want to be done.”
  • “I just want to sleep.”
  • “I can’t keep doing this.”
  • “I just want to be alone.”
  • “I want to go home.”
  • “If anything happens to me, promise to take care of…”
  • “I’m having a hard time.”
  • “No one cares.” Or, “I don’t care.”
  • “I can’t imagine living the rest of my life like this.”
  • “I want to disappear.”

All of these things indicate some of the warning signs of suicidal thoughts, such as becoming withdrawn or losing interest in things they once cared about, making plans for after they are gone, and vocalizing that they do not see a future for themselves.

If you hear someone making these kinds of statements, reach out to them. Start a conversation. Let them know you are there if they want to talk. Stay in touch. There are a ton of resources out there, such as the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255, which takes calls 24/7. Check up on family, friends, and co-workers often. Take care of each other. Taking the time to let someone know you are thinking of them, or asking how they are doing may start a lifesaving conversation.

Kate Spade is the latest celebrity who has died by suicide to draw attention to the rising suicide rate in the US. About 10% of people with major depression die of suicide, and about 15% of people with bipolar disorder die from suicide. In fact, suicide claims nearly 45,000 lives a year in the United States. The suicide rates have risen nearly 30% since 1999 according to a report recently released from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The increase occurred in both men and women and all ethnic groups in both urban and rural areas. Suicide and “self-harm” costs the nation $70 billion a year in both medical care and lost work time, according to an article featured on USA Today.

More Americans die from suicides than car accidents or opioids.

It is common for people with a mental illness to suffer from multiple types of mental illnesses. Some people with a mental illness also suffer from substance abuse problems, which can be a way of self-medicating.

“One in 5 Americans is affected by mental health conditions. Stigma is toxic to their mental health because it creates an environment of shame, fear and silence that prevents many people from seeking help and treatment. The perception of mental illness won’t change unless we act to change it.” – National Alliance on Mental Illness

For those suffering with their mental health, it is important to fight against the stigma. But how?

  • Talk openly: If you have a mental illness, talk about it. Tell others how it has affected your life. It may help someone else who is struggling.
  • Education: There are a lot of misconceptions about different kinds of mental illnesses. If you have a mental illness, try to educate others on how it affects your life and how it makes you feel. This is a great step to eliminating the social stigma and stereotypes that exist. If you don’t have a mental illness, there are a variety of resources out there you can read online that can help you understand more about mental illness.
  • Show compassion towards others with a mental illness. See the person, not the mental illness. Don’t reduce them to a diagnostic label.
  • If you overhear others stigmatizing mental illness, speak up. Let them know what they are saying is false and does more harm than good to those who are suffering with a mental illness.
  • Be more careful with your words and don’t use hurtful language. Using words like “crazy” or “psycho,” or casually throwing around terms like “depressed” or “OCD” trivializes mental health conditions.
  • Let those suffering with a mental illness know that you are there for them, and that they are not alone.