Cheslie Kryst (Courtesy photo)
Cheslie Kryst (Courtesy photo)

For Black History Month, I’m writing a column on mental health in the African American community. We must take care of our minds as well as our bodies and spirit.

On Jan. 30, Cheslie Kryst, winner of the 2019 Miss USA pageant and a correspondent for the entertainment news program “Extra,” died at age 30.

Police said Kryst jumped from a Manhattan apartment building and was pronounced dead at the scene. Her family confirmed her death in a statement.

I found myself Googling Cheslie over and over every day last week, trying to understand, hoping maybe some clues would show up as to what in the world happened. This was highly unusual, yet it wasn’t. 

Kryst, a successful attorney who worked on pro bono cases with the Buried Alive project seeking reduced sentences for people convicted of drug offenses, wrote in an essay for Allure Magazine, “I now enter year 30 searching for joy and purpose on my own terms – and that feels like my own sweet victory.”

However, she was suffering from depression. None of us knows what was really on her mind that day, but we know it was a dark, dark day for her. 

When you take a look at depression — for the sake of this column, let’s say among our people, African Americans — statistics from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Department of Mental and Behavioral Health of the African Americans show that in 2019, suicide was the second-leading cause of death for Blacks or African Americans ages 15 to 24. The death rate from suicide for Black or African American men was four times greater than for African American women in 2018.

The overall suicide rate for Black or African Americans was 60 percent lower than that of the non-Hispanic white population, in 2018. Black girls, grades 9-12, were 60% more likely to attempt suicide in 2019, as compared to non-Hispanic white girls of the same age range.

Poverty level affects mental health status. Black or African Americans living below the poverty level are twice as likely to report serious psychological distress, compared to those over twice the poverty level.

A report from the U.S. surgeon general found that from 1980-1995, the suicide rate among African Americans ages 10 to 14 increased 233%, as compared to 120% of non-Hispanic whites.

We cannot see mental problems on the outside, therefore, we must be diligent about helping those we love and care for. 

The butterfly metaphor talks about how the monarchs are a poisonous butterfly, yet it looks beautiful on the outside like its cousin, the viceroy! Cheslie Kryst was someone who was absolutely beautiful on the outside, yet troubled within, like a poisonous monarch.

Unfortunately, when Cheslie Kryst needed a spiritual intervention, obviously, she felt nothing but darkness. All of her hope was gone, so she jumped. She lived on the eighth floor, but she went up to the 25th floor to be sure that she would be successful in her attempt to take her own life.

Despite being someone who had made Black history as one of three African American beauty queens in America, who had become a millionaire, she was broken within, and she couldn’t take another moment of the pain she felt. Money wasn’t even her concern. According to her mother, Cheslie had suffered from depression throughout her young life. 

The book of Romans reminds us that we must make our bodies a living sacrifice, Holy and acceptable to God!

Scripture also says in Romans 12:1, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. Scripture also says 24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin. Romans 7:24-25 NKJV.

Lyndia Grant is a speaker/writer living in the D.C. area. Her radio show, “Think on These Things,” airs Fridays at 6 p.m. on 1340 AM (WYCB), a Radio One station. To reach Grant, visit her website, www.lyndiagrant.com, email lyndiagrantshowdc@gmail.com or call 240-602-6295. Follow her on Twitter @LyndiaGrant and on Facebook.

Lyndia Grant

A seasoned radio talk show host, national newspaper columnist, and major special events manager, Lyndia is a change agent. Those who experience hearing messages by this powerhouse speaker are changed forever!

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