Kate Spade seemed to have it all: fame, money, family, prestige, and a name that was instantly recognizable as a worldwide brand and fashion statement. News of her death by apparent suicide yesterday shocked many and brought the inevitable question to our lips: Why?
I was once told by a dad whose son died by suicide that he knew he would always have more questions than answers. He would always wonder about and want to know things that he just wasn’t able to know.
We can never know exactly what someone who considers suicide is feeling and thinking and may be left struggling to rationalize a tragedy that seems anything but rational to us.
What can we take from Kate’s passing?
Know What You Don’t Know
Seeing Kate’s name splashed across handbags may make it seem like we know her, at least in some way. The bright colours and fancy patterns may make us assume that Kate must be happy, positive, and totally put together.
But handbags are handbags, and people are people…people who may have struggles that we know nothing about. Assumptions built on what we see on the surface can be off base and reflect nothing about each individual’s emotions, history, and unique challenges.
Feelings, Not Just Facts
Some facts about Kate: she built a billion-dollar self-made brand, she is known worldwide, and she has a husband and daughter. But what about the feelings? How did she feel inside? This should be the bigger part of the picture.
What seems like having it all to us may not be so. It depends on how each person defines “it all” and feels about it.
We may think “I’d have it made if that were me” and “I’d be on top of the world if I were her” and figure that she must feel the same way. Not so fast, though. Maybe she feels pressure, insecurity, fear, hopelessness, or any number of emotions. Plus, we know nothing about other parts of her life and if she truly believed herself that she had it all.
Focus on the Life, Not Just the Death
It is encouraging that people seem to be sharing their thoughts and feelings about Kate’s death on social media and in conversation. It’s important to talk openly about suicide to help end the stigma and encourage people to get help when they need it.
It is also encouraging that a tribute has popped up online in which people are sharing photos of their first Kate Spade bags as a way of honouring her life and work. When someone dies by suicide, the focus often becomes that manner of death and what contributed to it.
A person is not defined by that death.
Each person who dies by suicide had a life that should be celebrated and honoured just as with other causes of death that have less stigma. Sharing Kate’s art and talent helps to do that and remind us that there is always a unique person with unique qualities, experiences, and journeys behind each and every death.
If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs support, call our 24/7 COAST Crisis Line at 1-877-825-9011. We also provide training for you to learn more about mental health and addictions and how you can help others. Call us at 1-877-693-4270 and ask about the Mental Health First Aid course and other workshops.