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Thursday, 7 June 2018

Had Spade sought treatment rather than take her own life — everyone on Twitter and in the tabloids would have applauded the designer and her brand would not have suffered. But I can’t say this and mean it because it’s probably not true.

Kate Spade’s suicide raises important questions about supporting mental illness By Emma TeitelNational Columnist Thu., June 7, 2018 American designer Kate Spade died by suicide this week, and we learned that a lot of people really loved her handbags, among them, America’s First Daughters. “My grandmother gave me my first Kate Spade bag when I was in college,” tweeted Chelsea Clinton in the aftermath of the designer’s death. Designer Kate Spade died by suicide this week and with the widespread media coverage, it’s important to know how to respond to these trajedies. Designer Kate Spade died by suicide this week and with the widespread media coverage, it’s important to know how to respond to these trajedies. (Kate Warren / For The Washington Post) “I will never forget the first Kate Spade bag I got for Christmas,” echoed Jenna Bush Hager, also on Twitter. Comedian Mindy Kaling was no less effusive about Spade’s professional legacy. “I am heartbroken,” she tweeted. “I have worn her clothes many, many times. They were colourful, bold, cheerful, and encouraged women to find the twinkly person inside them. You couldn’t walk into her boutiques and not smile. Rest In Peace, Kate.” It appears as though what’s shocked this grieving public most is not the reality that a successful businesswoman took her own life, but that the architect of such a loud, colourful brand (a brand Bette Midler referred to as “joyous”) was deeply depressed and suffered in silence. But this shock points to a popular misunderstanding about mental illness, the notion that it can be attributed to the day-to-day circumstances of a person’s life. Fun handbags are not proof of a joyful existence. Ironically, they can impede it. Read more: Kate Spade’s death compels writer to share powerful story of loss Kate Spade suffered years of mental illness, suicide ‘not unexpected,’ sister says Remembering Kate Spade You might be interested in Voters will go to the polls in Ontario’s provincial election Thursday, June 7. Everything you need to know about how to vote on election day GTA voters are reporting delays with the new voting machines at polling stations. Technical glitches at multiple stations frustrate voters U.S. President Donald Trump has “mused about finding new ways to punish” Canada “in recent days, frustrated with the country’s retaliatory trade moves,” The Washington Post reported. Some Republicans push back against Trump’s ‘national security’ tariffs on Canada Spade’s older sister, Reta Saffo, told the Kansas City Star she believes Spade resisted treatment in part because she was concerned that seeking help for her mental illness would tarnish the image of her “happy-go-lucky” brand. I’d like to say of course that’s not true. Had Spade sought treatment rather than take her own life — had she been hospitalized — everyone on Twitter and in the tabloids would have applauded the designer and her brand would not have suffered. But I can’t say this and mean it because it’s probably not true. Despite how enlightened we think we have become on matters of mental health, the fact remains that the public is still most gracious to a person suffering with mental illness not when that person is in crisis but after that crisis has killed them. Mental illness does not discriminate, as the saying goes. But we do. (Remember Amanda Bynes?) So while the outpouring of support from celebrities and ordinary people committed to “fighting stigma” is indeed heartening, I hope this surge of goodwill on social media doesn’t create the illusion that things have vastly improved offline, in the real world, for people who deal with mental health issues. The question is: what’s happening beyond the digital bubble, in offices and living rooms, where talking about these issues can be awkward and difficult? Not nearly enough. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, “Almost one half (49 per cent) of those who feel they have suffered from depression or anxiety have never gone to see a doctor about this problem.” A recent study commissioned by the British government determined that approximately 300,000 people in the U.K. who struggle with long-term mental health issues lose their jobs every year. According to a workplace health survey released last year by the U.S. non-profit Mental Health America, “63 per cent of respondents reported that their workplace stress resulted in a significant impact on their mental and behavioural health.” The majority of those respondents reported a “lack of support across the workplace. Only 36 per cent felt they could rely on their supervisors and only 34 per cent felt they could rely on their colleagues for support.” And more than a third “stated that they ‘always or often’ engaged in unhealthy behaviours in response to workplace stress.” In Canada, according to Louise Bradley, president and CEO of the Mental Health Commission of Canada, writing in iPolitics this week, “Only those with employer-sponsored or private insurance plans have coverage for services like psychotherapy. Given that mental health problems and illnesses cost the economy some $50 billion annually, we must make effective mental health treatments as accessible as cataract surgery or the flu vaccine.” Until we do, our public discourse around mental health will amount to little more than lip service. Social media advocacy is of course important and helpful but its reach is limited. Tweeting “Let’s end the stigma” after a high-profile suicide is quickly becoming equivalent to tweeting “My thoughts and prayers are with X” after a high-profile shooting. It’s a nice gesture. But if you haven’t already, try saying it out loud, offline, to someone you know. https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2018/06/07/kate-spades-suicide-raises-important-questions-about-supporting-mental-illness.html

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