Make your home page

Death of 2019 Miss USA Cheslie Kryst sparks mental health conversation

Mental health counselor Muhammad Saah speaks with News 8 on Jan. 31, 2022. (WISH Photo from video)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Mental health experts say the recent death of former Miss USA Cheslie Kryst shines a light on the need to improve suicide prevention and mental health support.

Authorities haven’t said what led to death.

Suicide is one of the top ten causes of death in the United States, and mental health experts say for many communities of color, two elephants in the room must be addressed: COVID-19 and ongoing issues surrounding social and racial justice.

Kryst’s Miss USA title was a pivotal movement in pageantry as she became one of a few women of color to take home the crown.

“Just to go from the highest of the high to the news yesterday that she committed suicide, it was just heartbreaking,” Renee Larson — a fan of Kryst’s who’s had her own battles with mental health — said.

“You can’t just pray it out for your mental health to be gone away. I’m almost 35 years old and I still have issues that I still see a therapist about,” Larson said.

Access to support or willingness to get support remains an issue in Black and brown communities.

“Keep in mind successful people are people like everyone else,” mental health counselor Muhammad Saahir said.

The National Center for Health Statistics reports a slight uptick in suicides in Native Americans, Alaskans, Black Americans, and Hispanic Americans.

“It’s a defense mechanism,” Indianapolis mental health therapist John Lewis said. “You’ll find your people who are always smiling or always laughing, always joking. And it’s a practice. They’ve been doing it for so long it looks easy.”

Both say despite suicide statistics, they see a shift. More Black people — and men in particular — are going to therapy. Some of that is because more men of color are getting into the profession.

“They were all expressive as far as how they felt about having somebody that looked like them, talked like them, understands some of the history and things that they may be going through,” Lewis said.

Saair says it may take a while for things to get better, progress is being made.

Mental health resources