In Memoriam:  Kate Spade

Susan Resko, President of The Josselyn Center, remembers Kate Spade and encourages everyone to pack a life safety handbag.

Millions of us are grieving over the tragic loss of the iconic fashion designer, Kate Spade.  Our hearts go out to her family, loved ones and friends.  Her death sadly illustrates that no one is immune from the ravages of mental illness.  Since 20% of Americans will suffer from mental illness in any given year, it means that almost every family is affected.  We all suffer.  We all need to educate and prepare ourselves for this emergency situation.

Loved ones of those who have died by suicide struggle to understand why people “choose” to die by suicide.  Suicide is not a choice, but an instinctual reaction to remove oneself from intense pain.  We do not question why someone throws themselves from the window of a burning building.  Suicide is akin to a panicked leap to avoid pain.

But, just as we have emergency exits for fires and evacuation routes for floods; we can all prepare a life safety bag for the event of overwhelming feelings of despair.  I read that upon hearing of Robin Williams’ death, Kate Spade said, “I would never do that.”  Author of Ordinary People, Judith Guest recently shared that one day before her husband’s suicide, he promised her he would not hurt himself.  No one is immune.

Keep a safety bag with a list of trusted friends, feel-good mementos, scents… anything that makes you feel better.  At the top of the list, write “Dial 911.”  Then, write down things on your list that you can do to get yourself through until help arrives.  Play a guitar, listen to a favorite song, look at a picture of a favorite friend, or text a trusted confidant.  Tell yourself that you can, and will feel better again, despite what your brain is telling you.  Tell yourself to hang on until help arrives.

Educate yourself on the signs and symptoms of depression.  Don’t be shy about bringing up the subject with someone if you are worried.  The question, “Do you feel like you want to hurt yourself?” can be a welcome relief, rather than the seed of an idea.

And, just like someone who experiences a stroke or heart attack should get into rehab, and make healthier life choices, take these feelings seriously.  Even if they fade, seek treatment.  Up to 80% of those treated for depression show an improvement in their symptoms.  Even for those with the highest risk for suicide, prevention and treatment saves lives!

Kate Spade put a smile on so many faces.

Sometimes, despite all of our best efforts, we tragically lose those we love.  But, think how many lives have been saved through the use of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, child safety seats and fire extinguishers.  A safety (hand) bag just might save your life, or that of a loved one.  There is much reason for hope.


  • Call 911 if you do not feel safe.
  • The Josselyn Center’s Living Room is open six days/week, free of charge for those experiencing a mental health emergency.
  • Call 847-441-5600 x 601 for an appointment.  All callers can schedule an appointment with a caring Josselyn clinician within three days.