I am a die-hard New Yorker who knows which city streets to go to to find my fake designer handbags. Or I used to do. See, when I was younger I was very, very poor. So, I needed to buy some cherished items such as videos, music and handbags on the streets of Chinatown or up near 54th street. Everyone, both tourists and natives alike, shopped the city streets. And that was where I first learned of Kate Spade. I saw “her” handbags there and was mesmerized by their bright colors. They looked completely different from all the other handbags, including Gucci. I ended up buying one that I was just thrilled to death about. Even though it was fake, I felt stylish and confident. And, that is what saddened me greatly this past week. The bag that made me feel confident and great may not have brought the same feeling to its original designer. As we learned of Kate Spade’s suicide, I felt a pang of sadness. Here again, depression had taken another life. I still remember how devastated I felt at Robin Williams’ suicide a few years back.
After my first fake Kate Spade I didn’t get a chance to buy another for many years. But when I did buy one again, it was the real thing. And, I still loved the designs and colors. I bought more and more. I still love my hot pink bag. Everyone says it is so me. Now, I have others. I still like them more than a Kors bag. My pastel striped bag is still perfect for a summer day in Santa Monica. The bags are fun and connote a free spirit.
Again, as I reminisce about this handbag line and its attributes and how well they fit me, I am reminded of how many people have that fun, free-spirited outside image that masks a more complicated self. As a healthcare executive who also happens to be a psychologist, I know pain comes in all forms and affects everyone. I believe most of us know this. Yet, we are always surprised when a high-profile, well-off celebrity commits suicide or displays other forms of mental health pain. At some point we need to get past these pre-conceived notions of who is impacted by mental health issues and work as a society to destigmatize it. Maybe now, her very pretty stylish bags can also enhance awareness of that which impacts so many people. Did you know that approximately 1 in 5 adults in the United States experiences mental illness in a given year? That is close to 44 million people. And that is a number we need to pay more attention to.
I’m going to wear one of my Kate Spade handbags this weekend. And, I will use it with pride, silly reverie and a sense of purpose.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255