Kate Spade’s sister is attracting the criticism of her family for saying that the famed designer’s suicide “was not unexpected.” Spade’s sister, Reta Brosnahan Saffo, 57, made the comments in an email exchange with the Kansas City Star on June 6, the day after Spade committed suicide in New York City. The famed handbag designer killed herself by hanging at her apartment along Park Avenue. Spade left a note to her daughter nearby. TMZ reports that Spade was having difficulties in her marriage to Andrew Spade which caused them to split.
In an email exchange with the Star, Saffo said, “Sometimes you simply cannot SAVE people from themselves!” Saffo added that her sister had been worried about the damage that hospitalization might do her image of being “happy-go-lucky.” Saffo also said that her sister had been fixated on Robin Williams’ August 2014 suicide. The comic star killed himself by hanging from a doorknob using a belt. Williams had apparently tried to cut his own wrists just before. Saffo told the Star that she thought her sister was planning suicide since Williams’ death.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Saffo Says She Tried Mulitple Times to Get Her Sister Mental Help
During her exchange with the Kansas City Star, Saffo said that she was not willing to talk on the phone but only in email. She also said that her husband was a doctor and that she had taken a sedative. Saffo went on:
I will say this was not unexpected by me. I’d flown out to Napa and NYC several times in the past 3-4 years to help her to get the treatment she needed (inpatient hospitalization). She was always a very excitable little girl and I felt all the stress/pressure of her brand (KS) may have flipped the switch where she eventually became full-on manic depressive.
I’d come so VERY close to getting her to go in for treatment (to the same place Catherine Zeta-Jones went for her successful bipolar treatment program). I’d spoken with them on the phone (not telling them exactly who the patient would be). They agreed to fly in and talk with her and take her with them to the treatment center.
Saffo continued to say that she was close to getting Spade into a rehab facility, even agreeing to go in herself as a patient to keep her sister company. Spade’s husband was also supportive of the idea, Saffo said, according to the Star. Ultimately, Saffo says her sister was too worried about her image to get treatment. The Star report says that Saffo concluded the interview by saying, “I’m off to bed for a good cry.”
2. A Family Source Says That Saffo Hasn’t Been in Close Contact With Spade for Years
Speaking to People Magazine, a Spade family source said that Saffo did not speak for the family. The source said, “The family is disgusted and saddened that at this time of great sorrow, Kate’s sister who has been estranged from the entire family for more than 10 years would choose to surface with unsubstantiated comments. “Her statements paint a picture of someone who didn’t know her at all.” That source went on to describe Spade as a “kind, generous, funny, warm and extremely private person.”
In the aftermath of Saffo’s interview with the Kansas City Star, Saffo released a statement to CBS New York that read, “She was surrounded by YES people, for far too long, therefore she did not receive the proper care for what I believe to be (and tried numerous times to get help for) Bipolar disorder… stemming from her immense celebrity,” the statement continued. “She never expected it — nor was she properly prepared for it. Unfortunately, untreated, it finally took its toll on her.”
3. Saffo Volunteers at a Hospice
According to Saffo’s now-deleted LinkedIn page, she volunteers at a hospice. Saffo wrote on the page that her role was to, “Comforting and placing people at ease during their illness… and time of need.” Like her sister, Saffo grew up in Kansas City. In total there were six children in the family. Spade attended an all-girl Catholic high school while Saffo is a graduate of Southwest High School. According to the obituary for Saffo and Spade’s mother, June Brosnahan, Saffo was married at that time to a man named Karl and the couple lived in Sarasota. In her Kansas City Star interview, Saffo said she lived in Santa Fe.
4. Spade’s Husband Has Released a Statement Saying His Wife Was Receiving Treatment for Depression
In a statement to the New York Times, Spade’s husband, Andrew Spade said that his wife was seeking treatment for depression. He added, “There were personal demons she was battling.” Andrew Spade also said that there was “no indication” that his wife would take her own life. He added that the couple had been living apart for ten months and that he had spoken to her the night before her death. Andrew Spade said, “We were not legally separated, and never even discussed divorce. We were best friends trying to work through our problems in the best way we knew how. We were together for 35 years. We loved each other very much and simply needed a break.”
5. The Implication of Spade’s ‘Ask Dad’ Remark in Her Suicide Note Is Unclear
It’s widely reported that Spade made direct reference to her daughter, Frances Beatrix Spade, 13, in her suicide note. Page Six reports that note read in part, “This has nothing to do with you. Don’t feel guilty. Ask your dad.” TMZ notes in their report on the suicide note, “One interpretation is that he knows why she ended her life.” In his New York Times statement, Andrew Spade said, “My daughter and I are devastated by her loss, and can’t even begin to fathom life without her. We are deeply heartbroken and miss her already… Our daughter was our priority… I have yet to see any note left behind and am appalled that a private message to my daughter has been so heartlessly shared with the media.”