Kate Spade, the fashion designer, was found dead at age 55 in her apartment Tuesday in an apparent suicide.
I am so sorry for her, for her family and all those who love her. She left behind a note for her 13 year old daughter, Page Six reported, telling her that her mother’s death was not her fault. If that doesn’t make your heart go into painful knots, I don’t know what would.
In the aftermath of a tragedy like this, so many idle tongues will wag. They’ll spread garbage like, “Kate Spade was phenomenally successful! What on earth could SHE possibly have to be depressed about?”
I’m here, however, to call that what it is: garbage.
You can be the wealthiest, most beautiful person on earth. You can have a spouse who loves you more than anything, and children who love you and fill you with pride. Basically, you can look like you have it all. But if you are depressed, or anxious, or coping with any number of mental illnesses, you feel as if you have nothing.
When you are struggling with depression, for example, you might feel as though someone is holding your head underwater. You cannot see the light, whether that light is the idea that the depression will one day abate, or the gratitude for all the blessings in your life, or the idea that people love you fiercely and would be utterly destroyed if you were gone. You cannot see beyond the furious darkness of the depression. It engulfs you. It prevents you from sleeping, it keeps you from rational thought, and it leads you seductively to the idea that all those people who love and care for you would be better off if you “weren’t around.”
People with depression or any other mental illness are not deserving of stigma. They are deserving of even more of our understanding and compassion. Mental illnesses are fierce enemies of life, just like cancer or sepsis. They are indiscriminate and prey on the young and the old, the rich and the poor, the confident and the insecure. That pretty woman that you see in the carpool line whose Instagram feed is all beautiful pictures of her children? She could be fighting a battle you know nothing about, and she might not be so sure she’s going to win it.
If you have thoughts of suicide, please do not succumb to those voices: seek help. There are so many resources available to you, from your friends and family to the Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, to texting HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.
Storms pass. Life is very much worth living. The Talmud says that if you save one life, it is as if you have saved an entire world, because every one of us is a remarkable, unique jewel. You can save your own life by calling out for help, and we can help others by talking about and erasing the stigma of mental illness. It starts now.
Header Image via Frances Valentine on Instagram.