After the suicide of fashion designer Kate Spade, mental health awareness has been brought to the spotlight once again. Through her use of bright handbags, striking patterns and cheerful comments, people believed Spade lived a happy life and were shocked to hear the news of her suicide. Spade’s style and brand acted as a shield to the public, who did not realize the extent of the issues she was battling.
About 26 percent of Americans 18 and older, which translates to about one in four adults, suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder, according to John Hopkins Medicine. The suicide was not a surprise to Spade’s older sister, Reta Saffo, who revealed that Spade struggled with mental health issues.
Her family encouraged her to seek help, but Spade feared the idea of being hospitalized because she did not want it to change the happy-go-lucky image tied to her brand; instead she used alcohol as a coping mechanism.
“She was always a very excitable little girl and I felt all the stress/pressure of her brand may have flipped the switch where she eventually became full-on manic depressive,” Saffo told Kansas City Star.
Dr. Shainna Ali believes perfectionism and stigma progressed Spade’s existing mental health issues. Spade faced a great deal of pressure, which Ali believes caused unrealistic expectations. Spade also feared how the public would perceive her mental illness, and how this would affect her public image.
“The pressure to be perfect may prompt initiate, fuel motivation, and encourage dedicated, hard work, however, perfectionism comes with a price as well,” Ali writes in Psychology Today.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, and approximately 44,965 Americans commit suicide each year.
“We do a lot of mind-reading in the age of Facebook and social media, in imagining what other people’s lives are like, but the human brain is hard, nobody gets to escape that. You don’t know what another person is experiencing, feeling, or thinking,” Dr. Debra Kissen, a member of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, told Refinery29.
Many celebrities have come forward to discuss their mental health battles, including Demi Lovato, Mariah Carey, Kendrick Lamar, Ryan Reynolds, Pete Davidson and James Franco. Recently with the release of his new album “ye,” Kanye West revealed his struggle with bipolar disorder.
Celebrities are human and experience the same problems as others, and fame often creates a shield to the public about mental health issues that may be present in public figure’s life.
“Life can be hard for everybody, not because you’re weak or broke, but because you’re human,” said Dr. Kissen.
Mental health often gets pushed aside due to the surrounding stigma, but it is important to know the warning signs of suicide such as acting anxious, agitate or reckless, sleeping too little or too much and increasing the use of alcohol or drugs.
If you or someone you know needs help, call National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text SIGNS to 741741.