The recent death of designer Kate Spade that rocked the fashion world continues to be the number one topic of conversation among fashion-loving women everywhere. On the surface, this story is another tragic piece of pop culture news. An E! headline, if you will. In reality, it’s a story that has really resonated with women, myself included. The question is why? Her death, now confirmed as a suicide, is certainly not the first to be highly publicized. But still, I can’t seem to shake it.
I am not, nor have I ever have been a “high fashion” girl. I do love clothes, shoes, and purses just usually with a smaller price tag. But I remember when I bought my one and only Kate Spade bag. I was 25. I had just earned my first Christmas bonus, from my first REAL job, and I wanted to treat myself to something special. The square bag was a beautiful, multi-color, striped little thing with a black leather strap and two inside pockets. I am pointing out it was a “little thing” because at the time it felt like my income level was directly correlated to the size of that bag. After all, I was 25 and IT was a Kate Spade. I was proud to have bought it for myself, with my own money. Tiny or not, I adored it.
When I heard of Spade’s death on Tuesday, I instantly felt sad. When I saw her picture splattered across the internet and read she had a husband and a daughter, I felt horribly sick. Admittedly, I knew very little about the designer before this. I had never even seen her photo. I knew who Kate Spade was, but I didn’t KNOW WHO Kate Spade was. Yet as I stared at the images, despite being aware she was wealthy and famous, this woman still somehow felt “accessible” to me. I felt like I could’ve been in line with her at Target or at a Starbucks and I wouldn’t have known the difference. And that’s probably because I am. Every. Single. Day.
The reason this story hits home for so many is that iconic status aside, Kate Spade was just like you and me. She was a business owner, a daughter, a mother, a wife. She wasn’t a known drug user or an alcoholic. She apparently had problems in her marriage, but who doesn’t? If you raised your hand, you’re lying. And according to the statement released by her husband Andy, she also suffered from and was being treated for depression and anxiety. If you can’t personally identify with that, then I am sure you know someone who can. And if you say you don’t, well, you’re either misinformed or you’re lying again.
I bet if I asked you if you knew someone with cancer, you could easily give me several names. Unfortunately, cancer is everywhere. How often have you heard the saying, “cancer does not discriminate”? I feel like I hear it all the time.
I’ll never forget when Charlie’s Angels star Farrah Fawcett was diagnosed with and eventually died from anal cancer. Once she knew she had it, she spoke up and tried to educate others. I followed her journey closely. I even watched the documentary, “Farrah’s Story.” And while I was sad, I wouldn’t say I was surprised when she passed. She was rich, beautiful and otherwise healthy. But she could not “buy” her way out of that disease. Because “cancer knows no boundaries.”
Yet when we hear stories like Kate Spade’s, stories of well-known, successful people committing suicide we are all, “SHOCKED and saddened.” Why? Because she had a billion dollar fashion line and penthouse apartment? What could she possibly have to be depressed about? Money doesn’t buy happiness and despite all of her riches and the resources she had access to, Spade could not buy her way out of the deep sorrowful whole that is depression.
Women (and men) of all financial means, all shapes, all sizes, all marital statuses struggle with many forms of mental illness and there is no one common thread. We need to accept that it’s a universal issue and we need to remove the stigma so it can become easier for people to speak up about it. Maybe Kate Spade wouldn’t have opted to share her story at the moment like Farrah Fawcett did. Maybe she was a private person and wanted to keep her struggle to herself. Or maybe she was just too afraid and too ashamed. Unfortunately, now we’ll never know.
If you or a loved one is struggling mental illness or having suicidal thoughts, please reach out for help. It is more common than you realize, you do not have to go through this alone and things WILL get better. For more information, you can visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or call 1-800-273-8255. You can also find help by texting 741741 to the Crisis Text Line.