I learned of Kate Spade’s suicide at the start of a client session. “Oh my God,” said my client, showing me her Twitter feed, “Kate Spade is dead. They think it was suicide.” Then she added, “if this can happen to her what chance do the rest of us have?”
Many people likely reacted to this sad news the same way my client did. Her response spurred a brief exchange. “I know what you mean,” I answered,
“…but it’s probably much more complicated than that. Money. Fame. They don’t guarantee well-being”
We discussed that it was helpful not to rush to judgment. Neither of us knew anything more than the barest facts.
I was still thinking about the upsetting news even after the session was over. Why did I feel so shocked? As a therapist who treats mood disorders, I am trained to discuss the concerns about suicide with my clients. I try to offer hope, reduce stigma, and decrease guilt. I try to keep people safe.
Kate Spade: The Person, Not The Product
I realized my error: I had equated a human being with her brand. Kate Spade’s work put a playful twist on classic shapes. Her handbags were fun without being frivolous, with a timelessness that felt reassuring. Her work resonated with so many women, some of whom are posting reminiscences on the New York Times website. Until today I had no reason to think the woman behind the brand differed from her product, yet now I can see that I should have known better.
How do we begin to understand a loss that is tragic and was so unexpected?
Recognize that doing a deep-dive on the Internet to learn the specific details about Kate Spade’s death is neither helpful nor respectful. Start by learning more about the issue. Suicide happens for many different reasons. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is a useful resource that shines a light on suicide without exploiting families or those we have lost. For any readers who wonder, “what can I do?,” visit ASFP’s site and explore ways that you can become involved in suicide prevention. Consider attending an event, such as Buffalo’s Out of the Darkness Walk, or donate to help fund outreach and prevention.
If you are having thoughts of suicide call
Crisis Services or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Crisis Services of Erie County: 716-834-3131
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 (TALK)
Even if you aren’t thinking of suicide but you feel down, blue, sad, or hopeless, please, reach out. Tell someone. You do not need to suffer alone. Start by talking to a trusted friend or loved one. If you need professional support, Explore What’s Next is here to help. We will listen. We will offer hope.
Emily K. Becker, LMSW
Anxiety, Depression, Parenting, Relationships, Eating/weight issues
Trouble feeling joy or connection? Do you feel sad, tired, or even just numb? Would you like to learn new ways to cope with unhelpful thoughts and feelings, and remove the obstacles that stand between you and your goals?
Emily works with you to create a safe space to explore the patterns and habits in your life that stop you from meeting your full potential. Together you can identify avenues of change and forge a path that leads to increased well-being.
Emily strongly believes that it’s the strength of the relationship you will create together that generates meaningful change. She will fit the therapeutic model you choose, including cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavioral therapy, to suit your needs. Emily strives to greet each session with a curious mind, an open heart, and a wish to hear your story.
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Thank you for this article, Emily. You express so well what many of us are felt when we heard the news. It reminds us again, as you say, that we really do not know what is in the deepest part of a person’s heart when that person is famous and not a friend. We don’t really know them even though we are invited to think we do. Several of my clients compared their reaction to Kate Spade’s suicide with the death of Robin Williams. A brilliant person whose work made us smile. You help us put this in perspective, know we are not alone and guide us to seek help.