The Kate Spade conversation used to be about the price of a purse instead of the person who began the company. When Kate Spade chose to take her life, she became national news and, chances are, the topic of conversation among some of your kids. Suicides are always shocking news, especially when the person involved is high-profile, successful, and seems to “have it all.”
Death is always a hard subject to talk about with our kids, but death is going to impact them at some point, so it’s good to be ready. Pets die, grandparents die, and tragically, some people choose to die. It’s hard to discuss the subject of suicide, but stories like Kate Spade’s will likely lead to the discussion.
There is a helpful article by the Society to Prevent Teenage Suicide. The article makes these suggestions to parents when they plan to discuss the subject of suicide with their kids:
- Timing is everything! Pick a time when you have the best chance of getting your child’s attention. Sometimes a car ride, for example, assures you of a captive, attentive audience.
- Think about what you want to say ahead of time.
- If this is a hard subject for you to talk about, admit it!
- Ask for your child’s response. Be direct! (“What do you think about suicide?”, “Is it something that any of your friends talk about?”, “Have you ever thought about it? What about your friends?”)
- Listen to what your child has to say. You’ve asked the questions, so simply consider your child’s answers.
- Don’t overreact or under-react. Overreaction will close off any future communication on the subject. Under-reacting, especially in relation to suicide, is often just a way to make ourselves feel better.
The article goes into greater detail, and I would recommend every parent taking the time to read it. But I would add a few things from a Christian perspective as well. The Bible doesn’t have a lot to say about suicide. King Saul fell on his sword when he knew he was about to be captured and killed by the Philistines. Judas Iscariot took his life, grieved over what he had done to Jesus. But the most common reason for suicide is clinical depression.
Too often, Christians feel that depression should simply be handled “spiritually” instead of “medically.” Depression is an illness, and an illness needs both types of help. If you have reason to believe your child is clinically depressed, you and your child need the help of a physician, as well as the Great Physician. Some churches provide counseling, and most churches can guide you to counseling. Schools or school districts should also be equipped to help. And your child is worth asking for that help.
Depression is a difficult subject, but one that all parents, even Christian parents, need to take seriously. A recent Time article discussed the major increase in depression in our teen population. The article makes the important point that, while there has been a significant rise in feelings of depression, the number of people seeking help has remained about the same. And the number of counselors is not on the rise either. Much of the increase in depression is linked to social media and the use of cell phones. Kids are reading a lot of comments, especially late at night, when there is no one to talk to. If I had teenagers at home, I think I would “own” their cell phones before I went to bed each night. I wouldn’t win any popularity contests, but I think everyone would get a better night’s sleep!
There is one more conversation I would have with kids. Kate Spade sold her company in 2006 for 124 million dollars. Last year it was resold by that company for 2.4 billion dollars. Kate Spade had recently started a new company, Francis Valentine, which was doing well. But there was a quote I read that prompted me to write this article. Kate Spade said, “Buy something that cheers you up. It doesn’t have to be a million dollars, it can be something that you wear and makes you feel good.”
I think Christians have an important message to send to the world, starting with the messages we send to our kids. Our kids need more than the temporary “feel good” moments like getting a new purse, even a purse with a designer label. I would put it this way: “Happiness is like an anesthetic that will eventually wear off. Joy is a more permanent fix that transcends circumstance.” Our culture is quick to sell our kids happiness, and teens are especially prone to wanting things like the “Kate Spade” labels. Her death was a tragedy, but the conversations that result can be powerful. “Stuff” can supply some temporary happiness, but joy should always be the real goal.
Here are a few verses about the difference between temporary happiness and God’s more permanent hope and joy:
- Romans 14:17 says, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” A lot of things matter, but there are things that matter most.
- Psalm 16:11 says, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” God will always be the source of our deepest and most complete joy.
- Romans 15:13 says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” The Holy Spirit was our great gift from God to provide his joy and the power of hope. Does your child know what it means to be filled—controlled by—God’s Holy Spirit?
Kate Spade’s death was a public tragedy and the result of clinical depression. If you are seriously concerned about a child, prayerfully read the articles I’ve linked to in this one. But everyone experiences the normal highs and lows that come from living an earthly life. I think the Lord would love for parents to use the sad news of Kate Spade’s death as a way of speaking his “good news” into the lives of our kids.
Romans 12:12 says, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” Kids need to know that all three of those are important parts of every Christian’s life. “In this world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33), but we also live with great hope because God’s perfect help is a prayer or two away.
When your kids are ready for the Kate Spade conversation, be ready to use it for the sake of their souls, as well as their lives.