Editor’s note: Kyle J Smith, an entrepreneurial ecosystem builder in Kansas City, reflects on fashion designer Kate Spade, 55, who died Tuesday of suicide. Born Katherine Brosnahan in Kansas City, Missouri, she went on to build a widely successful business and brand that carried her name.
My heart broke when I heard about Kate Spade’s passing. That she chose to take her own life was an incredible shock. I send my love to her friends, her family, and especially her daughter.
Many of us probably share this thought: Damn, it seemed like she got everything right. In her life, she did what many entrepreneurs strive to do. She had what many entrepreneurs want. And yet, she committed suicide.
If this thought weighs as heavily on your chest as it does on mine, and you’re losing hope that you can do anything to help those around you who might be at risk of committing suicide, my message is for you: Don’t lose hope. Never stop caring. You can make a difference.
Before I tell you how, let me take a moment to address those who might be in a dark place: You’re not alone. Reach out to someone or call this hotline: 1-800-273-8255. Please. The world needs more brave people like you.
I’m not a public health professional or a fancy anything, but I am a victim of suicide. My father took his own life when I was a baby. I never got to know him at all.
His death did not teach me anything that we don’t already know: We live in a broken, imperfect world. And some people struggle more deeply than others.
But from this experience, I have learned the power of choosing life and love. My father made a mistake by taking his own life. My mother could have let that decision imprison my family for all of our years. But instead, she chose life and love.
She chose to create an environment where my siblings and I could flourish and experience all the beauty and wonder this world has to offer.
And it’s that environment that I want to tell you about. Because this is where you come in. If you are exhausted by the rate of suicides in your part of the world, help to create an environment where life flourishes.
Instead of just coalescing around the problem — suicide — let’s focus on the solution: creating a better place to live.
This sentiment is supported by a CDC report released just this week that shows suicide rates have increased in nearly every state during the past two decades, even among people without known mental health conditions. The report encourages states to use a “comprehensive evidence-based public health approach to prevent suicide risk before it occurs.”
While public health professionals and state governments figure out how to best implement these findings, you can get started today. Join hands and hearts with your community and create a better place to live built on these core values: transparency, community, hope, hard work, love, and the healing power of grace.
I don’t need to define these words for you. But I can place them each in the context of creating a better place to live:
- Transparency: making decisions that you are proud of the whole way through.
- Community: friends and family who surround you and lift you up.
- Hope: a belief that our world can get better (if we’re willing to put in the effort).
- Hard work: a meaningful life takes sweat and a relentless spirit.
- Love: putting others before yourself.
- The healing power of grace: because no one is perfect, you must forgive.
Some other day you and I can grab a beer and I’ll tell you about the people in my life who taught me each of these values, and you can tell me about the people who support and inspire you.
For now, I’ll close with this: If I went back in time and told Kate, or my father, about these values, I don’t know that it would change anything.
But I do know that if each of us choose to live, and together we build a world based on transparency, community, hope, hard work, love, and the healing power of grace, then that’s the world I want to live in. And you can live in it, too.
Thank you for reading. Thank you for sharing our world with me.
Kyle J Smith works as communications coordinator at KCSourceLink and volunteers as a community organizer with 1 Million Cups Kansas City and a Startup Huddle ambassador with the Global Entrepreneurship Network. He is the founder of Determination, Incorporated, a new nonprofit creating a “felony-friendly” path to entrepreneurship in Kansas City.