Former Miss USA Cheslie Kryst’s Family Raises Awareness of High Functioning Depression After Tragic Death

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She competed as a Division 1 athlete, fought for social justice, earned two Emmy nominations for her work as an “Extra” correspondent, and made history as the oldest woman to win the Miss USA pageant. So why did Cheslie Kryst commit suicide at age 30?

Former Miss USA 2019 Cheslie Kryst committed suicide on January 30, 2022, but her mother April Simpkins opened up about Kryst’s secret struggle with high-functioning depression last Wednesday on “Red Table Talk” during his first interview since the tragedy, according to a USA Today report.

“Depression is not always marked by people lying in bed,” Simpkins said.

“There are people who are highly functional and go through the day. Cheslie wore her face.”

Her mother told Extra that her daughter hid her struggle with high-functioning depression from everyone until shortly before her death, according to a February statement.

“High-functioning depression” is not a formal diagnosis found in the common manual that healthcare professionals use to diagnose mental health conditions, known as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), according to the Psychology Today.


It’s a colloquial term that means someone meets criteria for depression but functions on a daily basis without their depression being apparent to others or even themselves, said Jameca Woody Cooper, a psychologist and adjunct professor at Webster University in Missouri.

Simpkins said on “Red Table Talk” that his daughter had previously attempted suicide, but the experience brought them closer together and began to show symptoms of depression in her early 20s.

“I wanted her to feel free to call me: ‘If you’re ever in a crisis, call me.'”

Kryst showed that she was better: “She started taking all the right steps. She started looking for a counselor. She was sleeping well at night. She knew everything to do,” said her mother.

But Simpkins didn’t know the depth of his daughter’s depression, according to USA Today.

“If you said to Cheslie, ‘Cheslie, how are you?’ she’d say, ‘I’m fine, how are you?’… and I think for a lot of people, that’s why they feel like they’re best friends. .with Cheslie because she was so focused on talking about them, not about her,” Simpkins said.

Gaining a better understanding of high-functioning depression will show that people can be “…productive, make six figures, have the biggest house, have a nice car and be depressed,” said Montrella Cowan, psychotherapist, clinical social worker and author with headquartered in DC

But the term can give the impression that patients with high-functioning depression are suffering from a less severe form of depression, according to the Washington Post.

“Depression is depression,” Cooper said.

Cheslie Kryst's mother and stepfather appeared on Wednesday's episode of 'Red Table Talk'.

Cheslie Kryst’s mother and stepfather appeared on Wednesday’s episode of ‘Red Table Talk’.
(Jordan Fisher)

“Just because some people have personality traits that make them more capable of functioning, that shouldn’t make them any less likely to be taken seriously, and I’m afraid that’s what could happen if we really start to see this term ‘high depression’. working’. used even more.”

High-functioning depression is sometimes confused with persistent depressive disorder, or PDD, which is a formal diagnosis in the DSM-5 where an adult is depressed most of the day, or most days, for at least two days. years, according to the American Psychiatric Association.

Symptoms of PDD include sleeping too much or insomnia, having a lack of appetite or eating too much, feeling tired, having low self-esteem or poor concentration with a feeling of being “depressed” or not feeling the need to seek help, assuming that “I ‘it’s always been that way’, according to the American Psychiatric Association.

But in high-functioning depression, depressive symptoms can be more difficult to recognize because the individual may be hiding, said Dr. Elie G. Aoun, a forensic psychiatrist and addict at Columbia University and a member of the American Psychiatric Association’s board of trustees.

“People often use all of their emotional reserves to be brave and act in such a way that they function well, work well and get the things that need to be done,” Aoun told Fox News.


“Doing this allows you to compartmentalize your depressed emotional state from the rest of your life. This is often what we see in high-functioning depressed people.”

In a patient with high-functioning depression, note subtle changes including changes in sleep quality, changes in mood or energy, feelings of hopelessness, and if these symptoms persist for a period of two weeks, it could be a sign of a healthcare professional. , said Rebecca Brendel, president-elect of the American Psychiatric Association.


“People are sometimes not kind to those who have mental problems, and Cheslie knew that,” Simpkins said.

“I hope that opening up these discussions and just talking about where Cheslie was – her state of mind back then – encourages people to be kinder.”

If you or someone you know may be struggling with suicidal thoughts, call the US National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) any time of day or night or chat online.

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