As the month of May recently came to a close, so did Mental Health Month. This awareness initiative is important to recognize because people struggle with their health in many different areas. This can be seen through the shock that spread across the United States about Kate Spade’s alleged suicide.
Any and all mental health awareness is important for the community. As MHA mentions, this past May increased the understanding that factors like sleep, stress, and nutrition could be worsening mental illnesses. However, there remains a certain stigma around mental illness and suicide.
While all of the details surrounding Kate Spade’s death have not been released yet, suicide rates are going up for women. As many news sources mentioned, her sister suspected that she might be suffering from bipolar disorder. However, there is one troubling aspect about this; why wasn’t she actually diagnosed and receiving help?
The fashion designer’s sister claims that she tried to help Kate Spade with her probable mental illness in the past. Regardless of this attempt, only real medical professionals can diagnose people suffering from illnesses like bipolar disorder.
What exactly is a bipolar disorder?
There are variations of mental illness, so a lot of people misunderstand what a bipolar disorder really means. In fact, a lot of people use the word bipolar disorder as a substitution for the word “moody.” This common misuse leads to a misrepresentation and stigma of the illness in popular culture.
As a result, the community cannot combat the true underlying struggle of mental illnesses. Kate Spade’s sister knew her better than most, but it is not certain if she truly knows that her sister had a bipolar disorder.
By definition on the National Institute of Mental Health website, bipolar disorder “is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks.” This is what becomes misunderstood by the community as moody behavior. However, the NIMH specifies that this behavior shifts someone’s mood from extreme highs to extreme lows. The important piece of this is that this can happen over various lengths of time, not just in the span of a few minutes. This rules out the ability for someone to be bipolar by showing only brief periods of moodiness.
This is where the controversy over Kate Spade’s sister’s comment about mental illness comes in. The NYPD reads Kate Spade’s suicide note as something that blames monetary and marital issues. However, these supposed justifications for killing herself do not align with mental illness. A bipolar disorder can take over the brain regardless of certain events or struggles in life. Kate Spade’s reason for suicide remains impossible to determine based on a lack of diagnoses and insight into her inner thoughts.
What should come out of Kate Spade’s Death?
While Kate Spade’s death is a tragedy, there is no psychiatric diagnosis that can determine if she did suffer from mental illness. However, her personal battles will not go unrecognized. As her death took place yesterday, it falls shortly after the end of the nationwide Mental Health Month. Therefore, this reminds the world that there needs to be more recognition of the uncertainties that surround mental illness.
Questions often arise after a tragedy, which can both help and hurt mental illness awareness. Kate Spade’s legacy will live on in the form of a woman who contributed her creativity to society. It is sad that she left it behind in a tragic moment of personal distress. Even so, people cannot claim, for the sake of mental health awareness, that a bipolar disorder is to blame for her apparent suicide. She could have had another mental illness, which is now being masked as a bipolar disorder. As many people have said in tweets responding to her death, “we never truly know another’s pain.”