Skip to Content

raceAhead: Losing Kate Spade

*This post talks about suicide and suicide ideation.



Kate Spade, the founder of an iconic brand, wife, mother, and friend died by suicide yesterday. She was 55.

Spade was a rare figure in the fashion world, an accessible and authentic spirit who made a lasting impact on business, building an empire that reflected her unique vision and created products that made women of all ages feel beautiful.

Fans took to Twitter to express their shock and sympathy, to share stories of their first-ever Kate Spade purses, and to offer sad reminders that problems with mental health can affect anyone.

“Tears just knowing #KateSpade took her life alone & in pain!” tweeted Rosie Perez. “So many hide & suffer alone. I get it — #Mentalillness can suck & be very painful. We must end stigma & help each other get proper #MentalHealth treatment.”

Perez is right.

For one, suicides are on the rise. U.S. suicides overall totaled nearly 45,000 in 2016, a 35% increase compared with 10 years earlier, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics.

But workplace suicides are also on the rise, confounding experts and compelling managers to re-think how they talk about mental health at work.

Suicides at workplaces totaled 291 in 2016, the highest number since the government began keeping track 25 years ago, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And, a new study by researchers from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) analyzed census data and found that workplace suicides ticked up markedly starting in 2010. “If I knew [why this was happening] I’d be able to prevent it,” Leon Lott, the sheriff for South Carolina’s Richland County, told The Wall Street Journal. Lott lost one of his deputies to suicide in July.

NIOSH researchers found that people in certain occupations faced higher risks, like first responders who experience high stress and have easy access to guns. People who work in farming, fishing, and forestry now have the second highest risk of suicide, which researchers believe is due to financial insecurity and social isolation.

But Kate Spade’s death is a reminder that no one is immune.

“Corporate managers are increasingly preparing for the possibility,” of the suicide of a colleague says WSJ’s Rachel Feintzeig. “Employers are bringing in counselors to teach managers to spot some of the potential warning signs: Someone planning suicide might exhibit a sharp decline in personal hygiene or a significant change in personality.” And employee assistance programs are increasingly being configured to reflect best practices in mental health referrals.

The reality hit home for PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP in the U.K., after colleagues witnessed a young accounting employee jump to his death from the firm’s London office building in 2015. The company provided in-house counselors for weeks to help traumatized employees cope and created a mobile app with information to resources about mental health. This year, the company plans to train 5,000 managers in ways they can better identify employees at risk.

I’ve included some links below that might help if you need more information for how to increase awareness in your own workplace, but I was touched by this simple advice from Lane Moore writing in Cosmopolitan, on how to talk to a suicidal friend.

Moore herself has suffered from depression and suicidal ideation, so she shares from the heart. Most of her tips involve just being present. “Many suicidal people feel like people do not understand the gravity of the situation or the immense, unbearable, incomprehensible amount of pain you have to be in to legitimately want to die,” she writes. “Tell them you hear them, you see it, and you are worried.”



On Point

An error leaves 118,000 registered voters off the roster, a mostly-Hispanic Los Angeles county was affectedA random printing error wreaked havoc during voting in California’s primary yesterday, after the names were left off the list which election officials use check in voters at their polling station. The impact is still unknown, but some 1,537 precincts appear to have be involved. Affected voters  — including, oddly, celebrity Henry Winkler — should have been allowed to vote by provisional ballot, but that didn’t happen in some cases. Of particular concern is the fate of the highly contested 39th district, a Republican area that was won by Hillary Clinton in 2018.CNN

Voters recall the judge who sentenced Stanford rapist Brock Turner
Some 60% of California voters moved to recall Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky, who created a firestorm when he handed down a six month sentence to the former athlete who was convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster after a frat party. Opponents of the move worry that judges will now be worried about showing leniency going forward. “[I]t sends a message to every judge on every court in California and really beyond …. A lot of the defendants are young people, and mostly males, of color — Latino and African-American,” LaDoris Cordell, a retired superior court judge in California told NPR. A judicial recall hasn’t happened in California since 1932.

There has never been a female Native American Congressmember, but now the odds look good
Deb Haaland won the Democratic nomination for a New Mexico congressional seat on Tuesday, easily besting her two opponents in a solidly Democratic district that includes Albuquerque. The single mother has been a busy political operative for more than two decades; she is the former chair of New Mexico’s Democratic party and was the Native American vote director for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign in 2012. Haaland is an enrolled member of the Laguna Pueblo tribe and is expected to win in November.
Huffington Post

South Dakota lawmaker says business owners should be able to discriminate against customers of color
Rep. Michael Clark, who represents a community about ten miles west of Sioux Falls, was forced to delete a Facebook post in which he lauded the U.S. Supreme Court’s narrow decision in support of the Colorado baker who objected to serving gay patrons for religious reasons. Then, he doubled down. “He should have the opportunity to run his business the way he wants,” Clark wrote. “If he wants to turn away people of color, then that(‘s) his choice.” Many of his constituents were not having it, and the lawmaker was forced to apologize. “I am apologizing for some of my Facebook comments,” he wrote. “I would never advocate discriminating against people based on their color or race,” he wrote.
Argus Leader


The Woke Leader

White supremacist who marched in Charlottesville, was elected to a Republican party post in an uncontested race
Yes, it’s one of the guys with the Tiki Torches. James Allsup, 22, intent on taking over the GOP in his home state of Washington,  became a precinct committee officer (PCO) for the Whitman County, Washington Republican Party, after his bid went uncontested for four days. It’s an odd loophole in the state’s election process, but it’s part of his larger plan to introduce more voters to supremacist views. “If you want to take over a political party in this state, the best thing to do is to start at the PCO level and get a whole bunch of people who agree with your views elected as PCOs,” says one University of Washington law professor. “We condemn this individual and his hateful, racist views in the strongest possible terms,” a spokesperson for the RNC told The Daily Beast.
The Daily Beast

Another winning professional sports team, ignored by the White House, celebrates by performing community service
The mighty Minnesota Lynx, this year’s WNBA champs, have been invited to the White House three times before after winning their league’s trophy. This year, no invitation came. So instead, the team spent yesterday visiting the Payne Elementary in D.C., a low-income community where 30% of the students are homeless. There, working with non-profit Samaritan’s Feet, they distributed socks, shoes and even washed the feet of students. Nike, Jordan Brand and DTLR Villa donated new socks and shoes for all 340 students. “We want to serve,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. “We want to give back, show that this is what champions do.” The team now plans to get back to business: They’re 2-5 so far this season. Go Lynx.
New York Times

How the term “Asian American” was born, and why we need it more than ever
The phrase has its origins in the tumultuous times of 1968, and according to historians was “a radical label of self-determination that indicated a political agenda of equality, anti-racism and anti-imperialism.” It’s a distinction that is more nuanced than it sounds to modern ears. While the specific experience of being Japanese-American, Chinese-American, or Cambodian-American are very different, the term has always been part of a bigger statement. “’Asian American’ — rather than describing our personally felt identities or describing our family histories — expresses an idea. And that idea is that as Asian Americans, we have to work together to fight for social justice and equality, not only for ourselves, but for all of the people around us,” says Daryl Maeda, a professor of Asian-American studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder.
NBC News


You are capable of amazing things.
Idris Elba