The stigma that successful individuals cannot also suffer from a mental illness needs to end.
Click on the picture above to read more about Spade's life and work. Photo courtesy of BBC.
On June 5th, news broke that Kate Spade was found dead in her New York City apartment. Authorities stated that it was an apparent suicide. My first thought was how on Earth could such a successful woman take her own life?
In 2002, Spade told an interviewer that she wanted to be remembered as a good friend, not just a good businesswoman. Her brand, now worth over $2 billion dollars after being bought by Coach, is one of the most successful in the world. So why did she take her own life?
Kate Spade is the perfect example that not all mental illness is noticeable, nor does mental illness only affect people with miserable, unsuccessful lives.
Spade was known for her happy-go-lucky attitude and hardheaded approach to the fashion world. Many women found themselves claiming her as their idol. But as with many individuals who suffer from mental illness, she hid it well.
According to her sister, Spade did not want to damage her image and reputation by making it known that she was struggling with mental illness. While Spade's death is beyond tragic, it opens the door for conversation about mental illness even more.
Many individuals, including myself, feel like hiding their mental illness is the only option due to fear of being judged. It is difficult to explain your complex, overwhelming feelings to someone who does not experience them as well. The stigma that mental illness makes someone less of a person, less successful and less capable is slowly killing many in our society that just so happen to live with these struggles from dawn till dusk every day.
Having a mental illness does not make someone broken or any less successful.
In fact, I believe it makes that person stronger. Suffering from depression, anxiety, bipolar and any other mental disorder while achieving great goals is something to be proud of, not something to hide. Mental illness is just as much of a difficulty to endure as being in a wheelchair or being deaf. It doesn't go away and it makes life hard to live on a daily basis.
It is understandable that Spade wanted to hide her illness, but for the sake of others who are suffering, we need to be more open. For as many people as there are who see mental illness as a handicap, there are just as many who view it as a strength and something that can be overcome. But nothing can be overcome if we stay silent and choose not to help others.
While it is too late to open a safe place for conversation with Kate Spade, it is never too late to open the conversation to everyone else who suffers from mental illness. If there is anything that I have learned, it is that sharing your own experiences opens the door for others to do so as well. Who knows, you might just being saving a life by sharing yours.
Instead of suffering in silence, let Spade be an example that nobody should have to hide their struggles. The more we help each other, the better the outlook of the future will be for those who feel alone in their struggle.