The sister of the fashion designer Kate Spade, who was found dead on Tuesday after an apparent suicide, said the 55-year-old had resisted seeking mental health treatment as she was worried it could damage her brand.
Reta Saffo, who is two years older than Spade, told the Kansas City Star that her sister had suffered from what she described as “manic depression” for a number of years, but had repeatedly rejected family suggestions that she should attend an in-patient clinic.
Explaining that Spade’s death was “not unexpected”, Saffo said: “She was always a very excitable little girl and I felt all the stress/pressure of her brand may have flipped the switch where she eventually became full-on manic depressive.
“I’d come so very close to getting her to go in for treatment (to the same place Catherine Zeta-Jones went for her successful bipolar treatment program).”
Adding that she had offered to go with her, Saffo continued: “That seemed to make her more comfortable, and we’d get so close to packing her bags, but — in the end, the ‘image’ of her brand (happy-go-lucky Kate Spade) was more important for her to keep up.
“She was definitely worried about what people would say if they found out.”
Majorie Wallace, chief executive of mental health charity SANE, said Spade’s death “shows yet again how mental illness can destroy people’s lives and is no respecter of celebrity, wealth or success.
“It also highlights the importance of talking openly, accepting help and not being afraid that this might affect your reputation.
“While people with mental illness often think they will be rejected, our most recent survey shows that the overwhelming majority are prepared to accept and understand.”
Spade is survived by her husband Andy Spade and their teenage daughter.
Figures from across the fashion industry have paid tribute to the former fashion editor, with Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour saying she “had an enviable gift for understanding exactly what women the world over wanted to carry”.
Useful websites and helplines:
Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 UK and Ireland
You can call Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393.
Get Connected is a free advice service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
HopeLine runs a confidential advice helpline if you are a young person at risk of suicide or are worried about a young person at risk of suicide. Monday-Friday 10-5pm and 7pm-10pm. Weekends 2pm-5pm on 0800 068 41 41.