Our social media feed is once again flooded with sad news – Katherine Noel Brosnahan, better known as Kate Spade and for her namesake designer handbags, passed away in her New York home earlier this week, from an apparent suicide, at only 55 years of age.
Co-founder of Kate Spade Handbags with her husband Andy Spade, the brand launched in 1993, and it quickly became a staple for young women everywhere. Designer yet affordable, with bold colours and aesthetics, the handbags were more than just an accessory. They were the embodiment of Kate herself, whose aim was to bring approachability to style.
Andy later released a press statement, revealing that Kate had been struggling with depression and anxiety for many years, and had in fact been actively seeking help from professionals. Her death came as a complete shock to everyone around her: “We were in touch with her the night before and she sounded happy. There was no indication and no warning that she would do this…There were personal demons she was battling.” Described as vibrant and outgoing, Kate certainly didn’t fall into the stereotypical personality of smeone suffering from depression.
But many of us know well by now that depression doesn’t discriminate, and all the money and success in the world cannot buy us happiness. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), depression affects more than 300 million worldwide, with close to 800,000 dying of suicide – this is also the leading cause of death among 15-29 year olds. Depression also affects more women than men – a study released this year by the National Centre for Health Statistics in the US reported that women were almost twice as likely as men to suffer from depression.
Effective treatment is available; however this is often a combination of antidepressants and therapy, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Every individual responds differently to different medications and modes of therapy, which can make the journey to getting better extremely frustrating and disheartening.
Kate wasn’t the only successful fashion personality to have taken her life. 4 years ago, fellow designer and stylist L’Wren Scott was found dead in her Manhattan apartment aged 49. Her partner of more than a decade, Mick Jagger, posted a statement on his website, saying, “I am still struggling to understand how my lover and best friend could end her life in this tragic way.”
More recently, Netflix original series ‘13 Reasons Why’ came back with a much-anticipated season 2, after having made waves with its debut last year. Produced by Selena Gomez, who has a personal interest in the story, the series shed a spotlight on the suicide of the protagonist. In 2016, Selena took a break from her career due to anxiety and depression as a result of lupus. The series was rife with controversy over its depiction and perceived glamourisation of suicide, but ultimately, the cast and crew were happy to have kickstarted more open conversations about mental health issues.
Stand-up comedian and writer Sarah Silverman has been candid about her struggle with depression, describing it as feeling “desperately homesick, but I’m home.” She also developed an addiction to antianxiety medication Xanax (which she has since overcome), and has been on several kinds of antidepressants. However, she concludes:
“The tough times, the days when you’re just a ball on the floor—they’ll pass. You’re playing the long game, and life is totally worth it.”
After decades of research and with growing mainstream acceptance of mental health issues, plenty of resources are available at hand.
If you or if you know someone experiencing emotional distress, reach out to the following organisations:
Anonymous calls to their 24-hour hotline on 03-7956 8145, or email [email protected]. You can also make face-to-face appointments at the Jalan Templer centre via the hotline. Note: Befrienders are not licensed counsellors or therapists; but it is compulsory for volunteers to undergo an 8-week training programme.
Clients with a monthly household income below a certain threshold qualify for subsidised rates with licensed therapists. Make face-to-face appointments at their Sungai Besi centre on +603-9054-8547 or [email protected].
An integrated wellness solution provider in Puchong that covers aspects beyond counselling and therapy, such as training and development. They also provide EAP services (Employee Assistance Programme) to several multinational companies in Malaysia – this means that employees get anonymous access to their services. Call in for an appointment at +603-80638981 / +603-80514518.
Low-fee therapy conducted by interns – typically master’s students – at RM1 per minute. Make an appointment at their Hartamas centre at 03 6201 7488 / 013 247 7196 / [email protected]
We are all in this together.
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