Yesterday, the tragic news broke that iconic fashion designer Kate Spade was found dead in her home of a reported suicide. She was 55-years-old.
All across social media, fashion lovers and other celebrity icons mourned the death of a beloved friend, designer, and influencer. Many women also mourned the death of someone they feel “understood” them through clothing and accessories. While Twitter and Facebook were filled with kind words and sentiments for Kate Spade and her family, one Facebook post stood out amongst the others for its powerful message.
Facebook user Claudia Herrera posted a photo of her Kate Spade bags, along with a sentimental and important message about mental health disorders that everyone should see and read.
My laptop bag is Kate Spade. My wallet is Kate Spade. The adorable cactus charm is Kate Spade. The purse my daughter carries is Kate Spade; I just got her a new one a couple of weeks ago, in fact. The phone I’m holding in my hand as I type this has a Kate Spade case.
Yet I had no idea this amazingly talented and creative woman suffered from depression. I know she went to ASU, which we just toured last week. I know that’s where she met her husband, who she left behind today along with her daughter. I know her brand story. Yet I didn’t know she suffered from depression.
Why is it any of my business or yours to know? It doesn’t have to be, of course.
But I knew when Patrick Swayze was battling pancreatic cancer. I know that Cynthia Nixon is a breast cancer survivor. I know that Selena Gomez has lupus and recently had a kidney transplant. I know that Dave Letterman suffers from heart disease. I know that Lance Armstrong is a testicular cancer survivor.
But I didn’t know that Kate Spade suffered from depression.
Or that Robin Williams did.
Because somehow society has made it more acceptable to talk about breasts and testicles than about the mind and the chemicals and hormones it releases and controls and the messages it relays.
Until depression is seen as an ILLNESS and not a condition that can be “cured” by being brushed off with a “try to be happy” or “just look at the bright side of life; you have so much to be happy about.”
Until anxiety is seen as an ILLNESS and not a condition that can be “cured” by being brushed off with a “just don’t be afraid of ____” or “get over it, freak.”
Depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, etc. feed your mind the wrong messages. They tell you to be afraid of things you know you shouldn’t be afraid of. They tell you that you aren’t good enough and don’t deserve to be alive and that things won’t get better. They tell you that everyone is out to get you, that everyone is looking at you, that everyone is judging you.
And sadly, the last sentence comes with truth. People do judge those with mental illness. Yet would you judge someone with cancer? Heart disease? Immune disorders? A tumor?
Would you tell them to just “get over it?” As though people suffering from mental ILLNESS could somehow just wish it away? Don’t you think they would if they could?!
Until the stigma is removed from mental illness … until society truly, authentically accepts it as an illness … those suffering from these illnesses will continue to hide their condition.
In some cases they will self medicate with drugs and alcohol.
In some cases, like an old friend when we were in our early 20s, they’ll jump off a cliff in LA.
In some cases, they’ll hang themselves from a red scarf from their bedroom door in their gorgeous New York City apartment.
Depression is a monster. And if you don’t start realizing that mental illness is an illness and not joke fodder … if you don’t respond with love and compassion when someone does open up to you about it … if you know someone with these illnesses and make them feel they are weak because of them … you might want to ask yourself if maybe you are too.
Rest easy, Kate Spade.
Many people on Facebook were blown away by how eloquently Herrera was able to put into words the stigma that society has against those with mental illnesses.
Thank you, Claudia Herrera, for putting into words how so many of us feel about our own mental health and society. Until we start working towards ending the stigma associated with mental illnesses and disorders, we will never move forward.