Cheslie Kryst's Death After Depression Reminds Us That Black Families Need Mental Health Resources

Too often, Black people suffer in silence, the way Kryst did, because of structural and systemic barriers to mental healthcare.

Cheslie Kryst
Photo: Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

When 30-year-old Cheslie Kryst, who was 2019 Miss USA, a co-host on Extra, and a successful attorney, died by suicide on Sunday, a familiar conversation started again. In the aftermath of the tragic news, Black communities were reminded of the importance of mental health.

Kryst's mother, April Simpkins, spoke out about the pain of losing her daughter, noting that Kryst, and countless others, are battling mental health concerns alone. And unfortunately in Black communities, people are often left to battle mental health concerns alone for many reasons, including structural and systemic barriers blocking access to care.

"I have never known a pain as deep as this. I am forever changed," Simpkins said in a statement. "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 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."

Kryst's passing—and the heartbreaking stories of others died by suicide, like Regina King's son Ian Alexander Jr.—are indicative of a silent struggle that affects many people in Black communities, even those who seem to have it all together.

In fact, Black youth have the fastest rising rate of suicide and, for Black men, suicide is the third leading cause of death between the ages of 15-24. They die by sucide at rates four times that of Black women. And Black people who experience mental illness consistently seek treatment and locate support at lower rates..

Brittney George, a licensed and board certified therapist, says Black people might feel unique pressure to suffer in silence. "We suffer silently because our pain was never humanized," she says, noting instances when Black pain was not treated in medical settings. Black patients also have higher rates of misdiagnosis for mental health conditions, and struggle to locate professions who understand the nuances of our experiences. "This level of implicit bias is perpetuated all across our definitions of health," says George.

George says Black communities are seeing an increase in healing spaces and that places and people who can support mental healing are necessary.

"Our healing occurs at every level: from the way we gather, the way we create, and the way we cope and purge pain. Even in how we move our bodies. I believe that if we can connect with one another and our sources, we can learn about our pain and teach others how to be safe and become safer for each other."

If you, or someone you know is struggling please don't hesitate to seek help.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255); En español 1-888-628-9454

Crisis Text Line

Text "HELLO" to 741741

Veterans Crisis Line

Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and press 1 or text to 838255

National Domestic Violence Hotline

Call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

Therapy for Black Girls

Therapy for Black Men

Black Girl In Om

Therapy for Black Kids

Black Virtual Wellness Directory



Black Mental Health Alliance

The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation

National Alliance on Mental Illness

She Matters

National Queer & Trans Therapists of Color Network

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