Kate Spade Might Have Had Bipolar Disorder and Refused Treatment, Sister Says

The sister of Kate Spade said the late designer might have had bipolar disorder and it could have contributed to her unexpected death Tuesday. Spade was found dead from an apparent suicide in her New York apartment. She was 55 years old.

"She did not receive the proper care for what I believed to be (and tried numerous times to get her help for) bipolar disorder," Reta Brosnahan Saffo said in a statement issued to WNBC. "She never expected it—nor was she properly prepared for it. Unfortunately, untreated, it finally took its toll on her." 

Added Saffo, "My little sister Katy was a precious, precious little person. Genuine in almost every way." 

Spade, born Katherine Noel Brosnahan, was found unconscious by her housekeeper, the NYPD said. The former businesswoman reportedly left a note at the scene that was addressed to her 13-year-old daughter, Frances Beatrix Spade.

Bipolar disorder is a mental condition centered around mood swings, from manic highs to depressive lows. Suicide in bipolar sufferers is common in patients who don't seek proper treatment. Data from the National Mental Health Association indicates that 30 to 70 percent of suicide victims experienced depression in some form. In 2017, actress Ricki Lake revealed her ex-husband—jewelry designer Christian Evans—committed suicide after suffering from bipolar-related depression for years. Spade's sister, however, told the Kansas City Star she'd "come so VERY close to getting her to go in for treatment."

Spade hasn't been associated with her namesake brand for more than a decade, but the company shared their condolences on its official website and social media accounts Tuesday. "Kate Spade, the visionary founder of our brand, has passed away," Kate Spade New York said in a statement. "Our thoughts are with her family at this incredibly heartbreaking time. We honor all the beauty she brought into this world."

If you have thoughts of suicide, confidential help is available for free at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Call 1-800-273-8255. The line is available 24 hours, every day.

Read a note from Newsweek's editor in chief about covering suicide.

kate spade pic The sister of late businesswoman Kate Spade said she suffered from mental illness ahead of death. Here, Spade is pictured arriving at the Council of Fashion Designers of America awards in New York on June 2, 2003, at the New York Public Library. Reuters/Chip East