A Note on Kate Spade and Depression

Celebrity deaths are normally a topic of conversation at work, a talking point between Brent and me over dinner, usually with sad notes of remembrance and respect. Kate Spade's death yesterday hit me hard. This was a woman who had a seemingly perfect life; married with more money than she could probably spend and a successful line of handbags, clothes and accessories that made her a household name. 

Depression still found her. It clawed its terrible way through and got the best of this otherwise healthy woman. The small silver lining here is hope that this tragedy will change the way we view depression and mental health in this country. 

There's such a stigma surrounding depression and false information about it. At work once we were talking about the lead singer of Linkin Park after he killed himself and I clearly remember someone saying what a coward he was. I was shocked that someone would say that, and even more so that other people in the conversation nodded or seemed to agree. That people associate suicide with cowardice, that they think people who take their lives are wimps or quitters or just can't hack it is exactly why we need to start the conversation about depression. 

You might think these things about someone who killed themselves because you are a rational person. So you think "We're all dealing with tough shit, for them to end it like that and destroy their friends and family, that's so selfish and cowardly." But depression is not a rational demon. My friend who recently killed himself was intelligent and educated and from a solid upper-class family. He had a job that allowed him to travel, a condo with beautiful views of the city, and a supportive family and friend base. Why would someone like that take their life?

I don't have the answers. I have bad days where I'm moody and miserable and mostly just want to lay on the couch eating ice cream. These bad days probably make people who suffer from actual depression want to punch me in the face. Those of us fortunate enough to have strong overall mental health can't fathom the struggle to constantly be fighting the devil inside. There needs to be more information on mental health so when people tragically take their own life they aren't vilified as selfish or cowards. We need to chip away at the stigma and stop telling people to "man up" or "suck it up" because it doesn't work like that for people with depression.

When I was in high school my dad started volunteering at a crisis support hotline. Throughout summers in college, I would drop him off and pick him up so I could have the car for the night. He was quiet on the rides home, no doubt thinking about the people he had talked with, and he might say something to me about how appreciative this work has made him. Over the years I hear it more and more, my dad saying how blessed we are and how most of our problems are silly, trivial things compared to what he hears at Contact. In the grand scheme of things we are fortunate, and it's terrifying to think that under the surface there could be someone in my family and friends circle silently suffering. We need to change the way people think about mental health, and hopefully Kate Spade's very public death will start the conversation.    


Stephanie said…
As a logical person, I can see your point.
But emotionally, I can't get there. I am still so, so mad at my uncle and I think he's a selfish asshole for killing himself while his wife has cancer. I will probably never not feel that way, for the rest of my life. The anger and betrayal I feel about the whole thing is forever going to overshadow anything else logical.
Brigid said…
The anger is real, I get it. You deserve to feel however towards your uncle, it was a terrible, tragic situation. I think part of me is still processing my friends death and it's not real yet; we had plans to revisit our college and rent a house for a festival in July and I have to keep reminding myself that isn't going to happen. More than anger is the sadness I feel when I think of my friend struggling with something so dark. Bottom line, it sucks for everyone involved.