Tragically, the world lost another creative mind to the ravages of clinical depression this week when Kate Spade lost her life to suicide. In an interview with the Kansas City Star, Kate Spade’s sister helped shed some light about why the life of a successful business person who seemed to have everything going on for her would end so unexpectedly.
It’s a brutal reminder that depression doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t recognize class, gender, income levels — and least of all, success.
Kate Spade is best known for her eponymous line of handbags and accessories she developed in the 1990s with her two business partners. While she left the company more than 10 years ago, she was always inextricably linked to the company that bears her name. More recently she had begun a new company for women’s accessories.
In the interview with the Kansas City Star newspaper via email, Kate’s sister Reta Saffo helped shed light on what might have been going on with Ms. Spade, who was born Katherine Brosnahan.
Over the course of the past four years, both Saffo and Spade’s husband and business partner Andy tried to get Spade into treatment for her depression:
“I’d flown out to Napa and NYC several times in the past 3-4 years to help her to get the treatment she needed (inpatient hospitalization)… She was all set to go — but then chickened out by morning. I even said I (would) go with her and be a ‘patient’ too (she liked that idea)… That seemed to make her more comfortable, and we’d get so close to packing her bags, but…
In the end, the image of her brand — happy-go-lucky Kate Spade — was more important for her to keep up. She was definitely worried about what people would say if they found out.”
When the comedian Robin Williams also ended his life by suicide in 2014, the act seemed to become a touchstone for Spade. Saffo said they would be watching news reports about his death. “We were freaked out/saddened but she kept watching it and watching it over and over. I think the plan was already in motion even as far back as then.”
“After numerous attempts, I finally let go,” Saffo wrote to the newspaper.
Trying to Make Sense of Suicide
It can be hard, if not impossible, to make sense of another person’s decision in a matter like this. Clinical depression has a way of clouding a person’s judgment and making the future look entirely hopeless and without meaning. No matter how successful you may be, depression doesn’t care. It tells lies to the person suffering from it — lies the person too often ends up believing are the truth.
I was very sorry to read of Kate Spade’s untimely passing, and hope her story serves as a reminder that sometimes, despite the support and love of people who care and their repeated attempts to get someone help, a person may still make the decision to forgo the pain they are experiencing with an act that cannot be undone. Sometimes everything a person may do to try and help may still not be enough. It’s not anyone’s fault — only the depression is to blame.
Shame and stigma still very much exist today when it comes to getting help for a treatable condition like depression. I’m sorry to see that for many people, they still do not see viable options as an alternative to suicide.
I’m here to tell you that you are stronger than you think. You can reach out for help — nobody will judge you. Nobody will treat you unkindly for seeking treatment for this condition. Help is available and for most people, they feel better after reaching out and getting into treatment. I encourage you to become one of those people.
May you rest in peace, Kate.
Need help now?
Please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
Learn more: Suicide Helpline: Suicide Resources