At the beginning of June came the devastating news that American designer Kate Spade had passed away. Best known for her iconic handbag designs, the 55-year-old committed suicide in her Manhattan apartment. Sadly, this tragic event is not the first the fashion industry has seen in recent years. In February 2010, London-based high-end designer Alexander McQueen hanged himself nine days after the death of his mother.

Despite the glitz and glamour associated with the brands these designers have created, their passing points to the deeper-rooted problems within the fashion industry. After Kate Spade’s death, many fans and celebrities took to social media to remind people that mental health issues can affect anyone, regardless of their wealth, fame or perceived success. Her husband, Andy Spade, stated that Kate had been seeking treatment and taking medication for anxiety and depression for five years. Therefore, the romanticised view of the fashion industry can often hide the reality of the situation.

Professionals working in fashion are subject to working long hours in stressful and competitive environments, with constant pressure and demands. Thus, these conditions can lead to problems with mental health. More and more there are designers coming forward to share their stories of struggles with mental health. For example, Marc Jacobs has revealed his suffering with anxiety, having checked into rehab twice for alcohol-related issues.

As well as amongst celebrities and public figures, the mental health problems of fashion design students has recently been brought to the public’s attention. In March this year, a student at the Antwerp Fashion Academy committed suicide, sparking conversations about the pressures inflicted upon individuals at all levels of the industry. This demonstrates that it is not just top professionals who may be struggling.

One in four people in the UK suffer with a mental health problem each year, and statistics show that those working in creative industries are 25% more likely to. Despite this, thankfully the awareness surrounding mental health problems is increasing. In the UK we are lucky to have many mental health charities and organisations that offer support, such as Mind, SANE and Samaritans. So whilst it may still be a taboo subject to some extent, this demonstrates that mental health is being increasingly discussed.

The news about Kate Spade proves there is still work that needs to be done to combat mental health issues in order to create a more understanding and nurturing society.

Sophie xx