Family of former Miss USA Cheslie Kryst advocates for people coping with mental illness

CHARLOTTE — The family of former Miss USA Cheslie Kryst is speaking out on what would have been her 32nd birthday. On Jan. 30, 2022, Kryst died by suicide.

April Simpkins, Kryst’s mother, said her daughter kept her battle with depression private in part because of negative comments she received on social media.

“There are so many people who are waiting to see you’re vulnerable, your vulnerable spot, and prey on that. And she was wise enough to know that. Cheslie had to school me a few times because I would read the comments and I would get upset. And she’d say, ‘Mom, stop reading the comments.’ These people don’t know me. They’re just making comments. And they are projecting from where they are,” Simpkins said.

In a magazine article, Kryst shared that strangers sent insults saying she wasn’t pretty enough to be Miss USA and that her muscular build was actually a “man body.” Kryst also said they would attack her for her options on social issues.

If you or someone you know is struggling, Simpkins said you should seek help while also avoiding negativity.

“Just know that everyone out there doesn’t wish you well. And if you are not in a mental state, to take the criticism that is often unfounded along with the accolades then monitor very carefully what you put on social media,” Simpkins explained.

As part of Kryst’s legacy, the family is also supporting others.

The family has partnered with the National Alliance on Mental Illness to form the Cheslie C. Kryst Memorial Fund.

“NAMI has peer-to-peer counseling with families,” Simpkins said. “And I think that is so critical because the family needs to provide that support for someone who is struggling.”

NAMI is available nationwide and is a source of hope, compassion, and education, which is exactly how Kryst’s family wants her to be remembered.

“Many times, I read the things that people will say about Cheslie, and it feels like they got stuck on her passing,” Simpkins said. “But Cheslie had 30 incredible years here where she did a lot of good and shared a lot of laughs and smiles.”

VIDEO: Memorial fund for mental health help created a year after Cheslie Kryst’s death