According to her sister, Kate Spade was a woman haunted by her own celebrity.

On Tuesday, Kate Spade was found dead in her New York City apartment at the age of 55.

The fashion designer was found by her housekeeper at her home on Park Avenue on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, the New York Daily News reported, citing unnamed police officials. It’s understood she took her own life.

Associated Press reports her husband, Andy, was home when her death was discovered, while their 13-year-old daughter, Frances Beatrix Spade, was at school.

Spade’s death came with outpourings of grief, musings of talent and saddened reflections on a great life lost.

Above all, the world took a breath and the world took note: Mental health doesn’t discriminate and its throes take no prisoners. The sentiment was loud, clear and – in the case of Kate Spade – too late. Check on your mates, hold your family tight, ask the people around you if they’re doing OK.

Kate Spade, in her many years in the public eye, has become the face of a world that haunts its own celebrities.

In the wake of her death, Spade’s older sister Reta Saffo told Mail Online she struggled for years with bipolar disorder, but was reportedly too scared to seek help in case it hurt her brand.

“My little sister Katy was a precious, precious little person,” she said. “Genuine in almost every way.

“Just dear – but she was surrounded by YES people, for far too long, therefore she did not receive the proper care for what I believed to be (and tried numerous times to get her help for) bipolar disorder… stemming from her immense celebrity.

“We’d get sooo 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.”


Kate Spade, as a celebrity being so haunted by her own fame to the point she avoided health treatment, is certainly no anomaly.

In a world where the news cycle covers all hours of the day - and one where clicks and ethics rarely overlap - the salacious story of a celebrity in hospital isn't an uncommon public narrative.

Earlier this year, Mariah Carey came forward with her own battle with bipolar in fear that someone would "expose her" first.

“Until recently I lived in denial and isolation and in constant fear someone would expose me,” she told People.

In 2011, while testifying at the Leveson inquiry - an inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the British press - Hugh Grant said he could not be at the birth of his own child due to fear of the news leaking. He also spoke of a time his private medical records were published:

"In June 1996 the Daily Mirror ran a story about a recent visit of mine to see a specialist at the Charing Cross hospital. The article included details of my condition and the treatment," he testified.

"After consulting a lawyer, both the doctor and I separately complained to the PCC. The PCC dragged their feet for many months and finally, after much expensive lobbying from our lawyers, the Mirror published a small paragraph, deep in the paper, regarding a complaint from me to the PCC. Its conclusion was that the 'The complaint was upheld'. That was all. There were no specifics, and no mention of publishing medical records."

In tabloid culture, the spectacle of papping a celebrity - think Amanda Bynes, Britney Spears or Lindsey Lohan - near rehab is big money. The dollar signs attached to the shame we still veil mental illness in, is still a grotesque kind of 'gotcha' moment ready for the tabloids.

We're living in a world so obsessed with policing celebrities, we're willing to harm them for the sake of a story. We're willing to share their secrets, their tightly-held truths, their private fears to a world for the sake a buck.

A celebrity seeking help for their mental illness shouldn't be a titillating headline.

In fact, it shouldn't be a headline at all.

If you or a loved one is struggling, help is available at Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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