(WWBT) - The Death of an icon. At the age of 55, Kate Spade took her own life Tuesday morning.
As the nation wrestles with the idea of how such a prolific fashion figure could end her life, Jeff Conley, program coordinator of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) says Spade's death shines a spotlight on an important issue.
"When it happens to a celebrity, I think people are caught off guard a little bit...I think that's part of the stigma," Conley said. "It's okay to not be okay, and we want people to understand that help is out there."
Conley says that 90 percent of people who die by suicide have a treatable, underlying mental health condition.
While there is no way to know if mental illness was a contributing factor to Spade's suicide, Conley says her death addresses an important conversation we should have more often.
"Because they're famous or have a little bit of money, that they somehow don't fit the bill, but I don't think depression or suicide is something that has a look," Conley said.
Conley wants people to understand that suicide doesn't discriminate.
Fashion designer Kate Spade found dead, police say
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., accounting for nearly 45,000 deaths annually.
In Virginia, suicide is the 11th leading cause of death and the 8th leading cause of death for ages 55 to 64.
Conley says if you fear that someone you know may have suicidal tendencies, the best thing to do is talk to that person directly and seek professional help.
"We all have a responsibility to each other as human beings that we can combat these issues that are so common," Conley said.
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