NYS Mental Health Chief on Kate Spade: “Mental illness touches all of us”

Jun 7, 2018

The shocking death of fashion designer icon Kate Spade renews discussions about mental illness.  Spade died by suicide and was found dead Tuesday in her New York apartment. WBFO’s senior reporter Eileen Buckley spoke to New York State commissioner of the Office of Mental Health.

Designer Kate Spade.

“Mental illness touches all of us,” says Dr. Ann Sullivan, commissioner of the New York State Office of Mental Health (OMH).

Sullivan tells WBFO News it does not matter what background you are from – mental illness can occur. 

One of Spade’s sister indicated d Spade may have suffered from bipolar disorder. But the family member said Spade didn’t seek treatment fearing it would hurt her name brand.

“Suicide is a tragedy for anyone – anywhere and we are working very hard to offer people across the state the ability to ask for help,” Sullivan responded.  

Dr. Ann Sullivan, commissioner of the New York State Office of Mental Health (OMH).
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

Commissioner Sullivan said the stigma surrounding mental illness is still preventing people to seek the help they need. 

“There are things like the suicide lifeline, we do a lot of suicide education in schools of helpers with community churches .  I’m trying to get the word out there so if you or a loved one who you think is having a really tough time – how to kind of talk to them and maybe get them some help – those kinds of things are what’s really necessary and suicide is just a tragedy no matter when or where it happens,” Sullivan replied.

Spade left a suicide note saying to her 13-year-old daughter saying it was not her fault. Sullivan said if you’re suffering – ask for help – there’s always assistance.  

The New York Times published a statement from Spade’s husband, Andy Spade, who revealed for many years she suffered from depression and anxiety. In the article, Spade said her death was “a complete shock” to him. The statement indicated she was “seeking help”. 

Statement on Kate Spade New York website.
Credit Photo from Kate Spade New York webpage

The company, Kate Spade New York, issued a statement on its webpage about Spade's death.

Those in need can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

In Western New York you can call the Crisis Services hotline 24-hours a day at 716-834-3131.