Kate Spade death illustrates need for suicide prevention

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Kate Spade was known to most of us through her fashion and her iconic purses.  So when the seemingly so-successful designer died by suicide, so many were shocked. 

Dr. Brian K. Ahmedani, the Director of Psychiatry research at Henry Ford Hospital, is considered an international expert in suicide prevention. He says many factors can raise a risk for suicide - and the key is prevention. 

Suicide always forces us to ask why? 

Kate's sister now says suffered with mental illness for years, but didn't want to get help for fear of tarnishing her happy-go-lucky, bright brand. 
"We know that about half of the people who die by suicide have a mental condition that's diagnosed," says Dr. Ahmedani. He says a diagnosed mental illness is a big risk factor, but there are more. 

"Traumatic brain injuries, chronic pain, life stressors; all sorts of things are at play in increasing people's risk, and we just need to be mindful," he says.

Suicide kills about 45,000 people in our country every year, and that number is rising. Doctors don't know why, but a big part of the problem is this fear of saying the word "suicide." 

"The very nature of the illness makes it difficult to get the help that you need for the ailment, and that means we, as family members, friends, society, can play a role in helping people get there," Dr. Ahmedani says. 

We don't know what risk factors Kate was experiencing, but we do know the number way we can prevent suicide is to simply ask the right questions. 

"It's okay to ask people if they're thinking about hurting themselves or wanting to die by suicide, because it's a myth - it's not true - that asking someone will increase their risk," Dr. Ahmedani says. 

The goal is to eliminate that feeling of hopelessness and isolation. That might mean a phone call to the suicide prevention life line, which is 1-800-273-TALK.

"There may be many people watching today that are having suicidal thoughts. I encourage those people to call that lifeline, because it connects people to local crisis centers to talk to people that know what they're doing, and can connect them to treatment they need," says Dr. Ahmedani.


If you or a loved one is feeling distressed, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The crisis center provides free and confidential emotional support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or text 741-741.