High-profile suicide deaths bring awareness to importance of mental health


Trigger Warning: Article mentions suicide.

On January 30, former Miss USA 2019 took her own life, and her family continues to grieve her death. In addition to being crowned Miss USA in 2019, Cheslie Kryst was also an entertainment reporter, and a former lawyer.  An autopsy confirmed that Ms. Kryst committed suicide by jumping from her high-end apartment located in Manhattan. 

Despite the cause of her death, mental health was a priority for Ms. Kryst. In a Facebook video in 2019 she explained, “When I’m not talking to my counselor, I take time at the end of every single day to just decompress.”

A couple hours before she was found dead, she shared a picture of herself on Instagram with the caption, “May this day bring you rest and peace.”

Her close family and friends were not aware of Ms. Kryst’s state of mind. In a statement, her mother stated that Ms. Krsyt “was dealing with high-functioning depression which she hid from everyone” including her.  While many believe that depression is overwhelming sadness that is obvious through their faces and interactions, high-functioning depression highlights “a really important point that people can be suffering with mental illness and still appear outwardly to be able to function or not appear mentally ill to an outside observer,” according to Rebecca Brendel, president-elect of the American Psychiatric Association.

Because depression can look very different for different people, awareness and acknowledgement of ones own mental health is vital.

According to Ms. Jennipha Gregory, Parkdale’s new health clinician, “being aware of your own mental health is as important as going to the doctor or dentist.” 

Similarly, a few days before the death of Ms. Kryst, the Mayor of Hyattsville Kevin Ward took his own life, as well. He died from an “apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.” He left behind a husband and two sons.

The causes of Mr. Ward’s suicide remains unknown. Members of the Hyattsville City Council describe Mr. Ward was a “trusted leader who advocated for all people” and they even describe his death as loss in the community. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the the risk factors associated with suicidal behavior; however, according to the Center of Disease Control (CDC), “provisional suicide counts in 2020, numbered 45,855, which was 3% less than 2019.”

While data about suicide rates two years into the pandemic is missing as of now, the pressures and life-changes brought on by the pandemic could very much contribute to the deaths of Mr. Ward, Ms. Kryst and many others. 

“We are very reactive,” said Ms. Gregory. “We are responding to something versus being proactive.” 

Although it has been confirmed that Ms. Kryst and Mr. Ward both committed suicide, the reason for them doing so may never be clear.

If you or someone you know may have suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255 or speak with someone you can trust and whom you can confidentially speak with.