Kate Spade Lived With Mental Illness For Years, Her Family Says

Designer's husband said he and his daughter are "deeply heartbroken."

A day after the apparent suicide of fashion designer Kate Spade, her family spoke publicly about her death – acknowledging that she faced mental health issues – even as they tried to cope with their grief.

“My daughter and I are devastated by her loss, and can’t even begin to fathom life without her,” Spade’s husband, Andy, said in a statement that was published by The New York Times. “We are deeply heartbroken and miss her already.”

Kate Spade, who grew up in Kansas City, was found dead on Tuesday in her Park Avenue apartment in New York. She was 55. Authorities said her death was an apparent suicide by hanging and that neither her husband nor her daughter was home at the time.

Calling his wife “the most beautiful woman in the world,” Andy Spade acknowledged that the couple had been living apart for the last 10 months.

“We were not legally separated, and never even discussed divorce,” he said. “We were best friends trying to work through our problems in the best way we knew how.”

Andy Spade also indicated that Kate had suffered from mental illness.

“She was actively seeking help for depression and anxiety over the last five years, seeing a doctor on a regular basis and taking medication for both depression and anxiety,” he said.

The designer’s older sister, Reta Saffo of Santa Fe, New Mexico, said in an email to the Kansas City Star that Kate’s apparent suicide “was not unexpected by me.” Saffo said her sister had been deeply affected by the suicide of comedian Robin Williams, who hanged himself in 2014.

“We were freaked out/saddened,” Saffo said of Williams’ death, “but she kept watching it and watching it over and over. I think the plan was already in motion even as far back as then.”

Kate Spade attending the AOL Build Series in April 2017.
Andrew Toth via Getty Images
Kate Spade attending the AOL Build Series in April 2017.

Saffo also said she had tried to persuade her sister to get in-patient treatment for mental health issues.

“After numerous attempts, I finally let go,” Saffo wrote to the Star. “Sometimes you simply cannot SAVE people from themselves! One of the last things she said to me was, ‘Reta, I know you hate funerals and don’t attend them, but for me would you PLEASE come to MINE, at least. Please!’ I know she perhaps had a plan, but she insisted she did not.”

Other family members disputed Saffo’s account.

“Kate suffered from depression and anxiety for many years,” Andy Spade said in his statement. “She was actively seeking help and working closely with her doctors to treat her disease, one that takes far too many lives. We were in touch with her the night before and she sounded happy. There was no indication and no warning that she would do this. It was a complete shock.”

The designer’s 90-year-old father, Frank Brosnahan, who lives in Kansas City, told the Star that he had been aware of his daughter’s problems but that her death still came as a shock.

“The last I talked with her, the night before last, she was happy planning a trip to California to look at colleges. She doted on her daughter,” Brosnahan said.

He also said he thought his daughter would be gratified if she knew that her death had shed light on mental illness.

“One thing we feel is that any talk that they do that helps somebody else, Katy would have liked that,” Brosnahan said. “She was always giving and charitable. If that helped anybody avoid anything — fine, she’d be delighted.”

David Spade, the brother of Kate’s husband, said on Instagram, “I still can’t believe it. It’s a rough world out there people, try to hang on.”

Actress Rachel Brosnahan, Kate’s niece and the star of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” also posted a tribute on Instagram:

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated.

If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also text HOME to 741-741 for free, 24-hour support from the Crisis Text Line. Outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of resources.

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