Piedmont Medical Center Psychiatrist Dr. Brian Mika Talks with WCNC Charlotte about Suicide of Former Miss Universe Cheslie Kryst

Feb 2, 2022

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — In the days since Charlotte native Cheslie Kryst died, people across the country have shared their respects and memories. Kryst was a former Division I athlete, a North Carolina attorney who fought for social justice, was crowned Miss USA in 2019, and was a host on "Extra."

Her impact was massive, and the news of her death left many in shock. On Wednesday, her mother April Simpkins, released a statement regarding Kryst's depression.

Warning: Story contains sensitive subject matter

Police on Sunday confirmed Kryst died by suicide in New York. Her family confirmed the news Sunday, saying they knew "her impact will live on."

In her statement Wednesday, Simpkins said Kryst had been dealing with high-functioning depression and hadn't told anyone about it until shortly before her death.

Statement from Cheslie Kryst's mother, April Simpkins:

I have never known a pain as deep as this. I am forever changed.

Today, what our family and friends privately knew was the cause of death of my sweet baby girl, Cheslie, was officially confirmed. While it may be hard to believe, it’s true. Cheslie led both a public and a private life. In her private life, she was dealing with high-functioning depression which she hid from everyone - including me, her closest confidant - until very shortly before her death.

While her life on this earth was short, it was filled with many beautiful memories. We miss her laugh, her words of wisdom, her sense of humor and mostly her hugs. We miss all of it - we miss all of her. She was a vital part of our family which makes this loss even more devastating.

Cheslie – to the world, you were a ball of sunshine wrapped in smiles. We talked, FaceTimed or texted one another all day, every day. You were more than a daughter - you were my very best friend. Talking with you was one of the best parts of my day. Your smile and laugh were infectious.

I love you baby girl with all my heart. I miss you desperately. I know one day we’ll be together again. Until then, rest easy and in peace.

In lieu of flowers, please make a donation to Dress for Success, an organization that was dear to her heart. If you or anyone else is struggling with thoughts of suicide, please contact the National Suicide Hotline at 800-273-8255.

Thank you all for continuing to respect the privacy of our family while we grieve.

WCNC Charlotte spoke with Dress for Success Charlotte Executive Director Kerry Barr O'Connor earlier this week regarding Kryst's impact.

"Cheslie was one of the most effervescent people I ever met… she was always positive, she was always ready to take on the next task," Barr O'Connor said, adding Kryst was a global impact ambassador for the organization and made everyone she spoke to feel like they were the only person in the room.

Kryst was a client and friend to LaToya Evans, a spokesperson for Kryst's family. Evans told WCNC Charlotte they had spoken just days before Kryst's death and said she's committed to continuing Kryst's legacy.

"There were no signs," Evans said. "That's because Cheslie -- as bright and intelligent and as beautiful as she was -- she never wanted to burden anyone. Her gift was her light, and in that, she didn't share the true story of her depression until unfortunately very shortly before her death."

Evans said Dress for Success was so important to Kryst because of her desire for everyone to have a shot at success.

"Particularly when it came to empowering women, that's what Cheslie was about," Evans said. "Giving this donation to Dress for Success and having those contributions go there is another way that will continue to honor Cheslie's legacy by giving that gift to women."

The statement from Kryst's mother sheds light on high-functioning depression, which Piedmont Medical Center psychiatrist Dr. Brian Mika said is common in a lot of people and can be hard to detect.

"They're very good at masking it, they're also very good at deluding themselves," Mika said. "They feel that they can solve everything. 'This shouldn't happen to me, I can do anything, I got these degrees from this university, I've been promoted, I've been successful, I've ran these things, I've done these things, I can fix me, this shouldn't happen to me.'"

Some warning signs of high-functioning depression can include out-of-the-ordinary mood swings that can last for weeks or even months, suppressing emotions, or masking feelings. If you see these signs, Mika said the best thing you can do is ask the person how they are doing, how they are feeling.

If you or a loved one are facing thoughts of suicide or self-harm, there is help readily available. You can call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or chat with them online. There are also resources in North Carolina available here and in South Carolina available here.

Source: https://www.wcnc.com/article/news/local/cheslie-kryst-mother-high-functioning-depression/275-f501f7d5-f2c1-4e38-8682-36bb03fa70cf

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