Cheslie Kryst, a Charlotte native and former Miss USA, has died at the age of 30, according to a statement from her family.
“Her great light inspired others around the world with her beauty and strength. She cared, she loved, she laughed and she shone,” her family said in the statement.
Officials said Kryst’s cause of death was suicide.
Mental health is an epidemic affecting one in four people worldwide.
“Cheslie Kryst was a role model for so many here and across the country. Our prayers are with his family. Ask your relatives. If you feel overwhelmed, ask for help,” North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said on Twitter on Monday.
>> Channel 9 is committed to breaking the stigma around mental health and delivering real solutions. Right here is a list of resources for anyone in difficulty. You can find the guide by county here.
Channel 9’s Susanna Black spoke to mental health advocate Fonda Bryant about the signs to look out for to help anyone who may be struggling behind closed doors. She is a strong advocate for suicide prevention and is herself a suicide survivor. That’s why she says she feels she can put herself in Kryst’s shoes.
“She was beautiful. She was smart. She was a lawyer. She spoke well. She had it all, but inside she was struggling and that’s the problem,” Bryant said.
Bryant and family therapist Yasmine Jeffers said mental health issues can affect anyone, and many people are very good at hiding them.
“Partly because we don’t often talk about our struggles, when you see someone and ask them about their day, everyone goes, ‘Oh, good. It’s okay.’ We don’t take the time to say I’m struggling. I’m fighting,” Jeffers said.
That’s why Jeffers said it’s critical to know the warning signs of someone contemplating suicide. They can be very varied, such as eating too much or not enough, acting more anxious than usual, behaving recklessly or even giving away possessions.
“If you notice they’re trying to work out a lot of issues, and you know they have mental health issues,” Jeffers said.
In Bryant’s case, she called her aunt to tell her she could have her shoes.
“When I hung up with my Aunt Spanky, she called me back and said, ‘Are you going to kill yourself?’ and I said, ‘Yes.’ I just told him,” Bryant said.
She said her aunt cared just asking meant the world to her, and the response we give to loved ones in the same position is equally important.
“The biggest deterrent to suicide is benevolence,” Bryant said. “We don’t need to hear, ‘If you kill yourself, do you realize the people you’re going to hurt, who you’re going to leave behind?’ ‘Cause all it’s gonna do is shut us down. Let us know you care. Let us know other people care. Let us know we can get through this.
If you’re thinking about suicide, worried about a friend or loved one, or want emotional support, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 across the United States. The Lifeline is available to everyone, free and confidential — 1-800-273-8255.
(WATCH BELOW: Charlotte’s Hidden Crisis: Hope in Trying Times PART I)
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