HOUSTON - The death by suicide of former Miss USA Cheslie Kryst is shining light on the need to talk about suicide prevention. First, we can’t stress enough help is available.
Cheslie Kryst is said to have jumped to her death. She was just 30-years-old and seemed to have everything going for her, like so many others who die by suicide.
"We love you Ashley. Love you Ashley," a small crowd sings at a balloon release in Houston for 17-year-old Ashley Jadine Duncan.
The balloons slowly swayed into the air the same day Kryst died by jumping from her Manhattan apartment building. She lived on the 9th floor, but was said to have been last seen on the terrace of the 29th floor.
"I'm very hurt that the family will have to go through what I went through," says Cheryl Duncan.
You see, on that very day 10 years ago, Cheryl's daughter, Ashley, ended her life by first posting on social media she was going to shoot herself, and then she did.
"It’s a very hard pain to lose a child," says the Houston nurse who took time to talk on her break about this important topic.
Even though she lost her voice while watching a video of her daughter's home going and singing along to the songs on the 10th anniversary of her death.
"I guess I praised so much that I became so hoarse, like you’re at a football game or a concert, and it was her concert. We released the balloons to Ashley and that gave me joy, but I’ll always be hurt all my life," says Duncan.
"There are still a lot of people who believe well that’s not something that Black people do. So we have to start there with that bit of misinformation, and then we have to start to recognize some of the signs of suicide," explains Dr. Rheeda Walker, University of Houston Professor of Psychology, who says suicides, particularly among Blacks, have increased in the pandemic. She says someone who suffers anxiety, depression, or a significant loss could be suicidal, but she points out many people may never show signs or ask for help.
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"If we think someone is struggling first and foremost, we need to communicate that we’re there for them and another part of that though is we can’t seem like well I’m trying to get through this so I can get to something else. Don’t be hurried. Instead, communicate to that person as warmly and sincerely as possible. Sometimes it helps when you reach out to folks, and rather than asking about their business that we share some of ours, some of our struggles, if that person seems really resistant to talk about what’s going on with them," said Walker.
Walker says many may wear a convincing mask. Kryst, for instance, was the oldest woman named Miss USA at 28-years-old in 2019, was also an attorney and a correspondent for Extra and many had no idea she was in such pain.
Cheryl’s daughter was a beautiful, successful volleyball player at Bellaire High School and Cheryl actually also lost her 30-year-old sister to suicide in 1995.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, "I want you to hold on. There’s hope. Stop the stigma, the shame, and the silence and get help. Talk more, text less. I’ve seen some whose loved ones died by suicide who go to drinking, you go to drugs, go to friends. You go to a lot of things, but I went to God to give me strength. I’ve found peace helping others in the non-profit I started in my daughter's name, The Ashley Jadine Duncan Foundation, to help others. I have to share Ashley’s story because whoever’s listening please get help, there’s a national suicide prevention line," says Duncan.
Dr. Rheeda Walker says having meaningful conversations can save someone’s life. She also suggests turning to a therapist if you’re having trouble staying focused at work or at home, and she says get help from a suicide prevention hotline if your stress is so intense you think the only way to solve the problem is by suicide.
The phone number of the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Reach out to the Harris Center 24/7 Crisis Line anytime you may need emotional support at 713-970-7000 and choose option 1. The Harris Center Text Line, if you are more comfortable texting instead of speaking with someone, you may text 832-479-2135.