When a celebrity commits suicide, it’s tough to process the news. Why would someone who has it all want to end her own life?
That’s the question many have asked following the Tuesday suicide of fashion designer Kate Spade, 55. According to the New York Times, Spade hanged herself with a scarf at her Upper East Side home.
She’s one of an alarming number of Americans who choose suicide. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 44,000 people commit suicide each year.
Nationwide, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death, notes the Foundation for Suicide Prevention. The rate of suicide is highest among middle-aged men and women. Overall, there are an average of 121 suicides per day and, for each, another 25 people attempt it.
Still, it’s tough for many of us to fathom why someone like Spade would kill herself. She seemed to have it all -- family, friends, talent, intellect, good looks and more.
In 2007, Spade and her husband/business partner, Andy Spade, sold their eponymous company for more than $100 million. They did so to spend more time with their daughter, Frances Beatrix, who is now 13.
Some now ask what more Spade could need to round out what appeared to be a happy, fulfilling life.
Merging shock and sadness, actor-comedian David Spade summarized his reaction his sister-in-law’s suicide. He tweeted a picture from one of his book signings, where Spade watched over him. In the caption, he wrote, “It’s a rough world out there, people. Try to hang on.”
His statement reveals a truth about suicide that is difficult to accept: The balance between pain and blessings isn’t an exact equation. The math isn’t simple, either; a mountain of joy doesn’t necessarily void a person’s sorrows.
As adolescents in health sciences classes, many of us learned some version of the notion each of us carries around two invisible buckets. One holds all the good things we internalize about ourselves. The other holds the negative comments and issues with which we each grapple.
I was taught it takes about 40 good things -- compliments, kudos or rewards -- related to a topic or situation to truly erase one bad thing.
The impact of insults, setbacks and slights is that we tend to feel them more deeply and carry them with us longer. The deeper the wound, the more good things we need to balance out the weight. I learned I must try and recognize and be grateful for good things -- consciously take note of all that fills my “good bucket.” This would help balance out the disproportionate weight of the “bad bucket.” Likewise, I must try to fill others’ “good buckets” and avoid adding to the bad.
When applied to my perception of Kate Spade, I realize, while she may have fashioned herself a designer label “good bucket,” it didn’t lighten what proved an oppressive load.
The notion makes David Spade’s message all the more important — “It’s a rough world out there, people. Try to hang on.”
It shows us we shouldn’t compare and contrast our own lives to those of others, because everyone has issues and problems. It implores us to show empathy and compassion. It’s a reminder to take care of ourselves and ensure we have some empathy for what others are going through.
Perhaps the lesson of Spade’s death isn’t “money can’t buy happiness.” Instead, maybe it’s a caution to make spaces for processing pain, depression, grief and other feelings.