The recent news of former Miss USA, attorney, fashion blogger, and entertainment news correspondent Chelsie Kryst’s death is sobering reminder to us all that mental health struggles impact every person on some level.

There is no amount of success, fame, familial closeness, or achievement that makes us immune to the difficulties of being human. In statements from her family and those who worked with her, she is described as a caring, loving person whose light shined brightly.

Last year we saw a dramatic rise in calls related to suicidal ideation and self-harm, the calls at Lena Pope doubled in a one-year period. Cook Children’s noted an increase in pediatric cases of suicidal ideation and self-harm. 

With such an extreme rise in suicidal ideation and suicides, it is clear that our community is in crisis. And we are awash with information, both helpful and harmful related to suicide. Youth exposed to suicide or suicidal behaviors within one’s family, peer group, or even in the media can result in a phenomenon known as suicide contagion. This theory suggests that direct or indirect exposure to suicidal behavior can increase the risk of suicidal behavior, particularly among adolescents. 

As adults, we must play a vital role in reducing the impact of prolonged or repetitive exposure to details of suicide. When you know a loved one has become aware of a suicide event, such as the tragic loss of Chelsie Kryst, it is important to ask open ended questions and create space for sincere expression and unique perspectives that may be confusing for youth.

Be clear that suicide is a result of extremely complex factors and life circumstances that are often difficult to fully understand. Avoid oversimplifying this issue by explanations that single out stress, depression, or life challenges.  

There is no better time than today to check in on people in your life. Ask how they are really doing and leave time for them to respond. If a person is at risk, encourage them to seek the guidance of a professional for support and a thorough evaluation.

A “wait-and-see” approach or the assumption that all teens go through this “phase” can result in a worsening of symptoms and concerning behaviors. Suicide is too frequently a complete surprise to loved ones. 

If you are struggling or if you are concerned for someone in your life, the National Suicide Prevention line: 800-273-8255 or ICare Call Center: 817-355-3022 (call or text) are available 24/7.

Every person matters and has beauty to share with the world. We need each and every shining light. Act now, mental health matters.

Dr. Ashley Elgin has championed causes for women and children in need for over 30 years, most recently becoming CEO of Lena Pope in 2019. In 2017, she was recognized with the Distinguished Service Award, Non-Profit CEO of the Year by Community Council of Dallas for her service at Promise House. Dr. Elgin has a PhD in Counseling from the University of North Texas and is recognized as an expert on the dynamics and effects of childhood trauma, authoring academic chapters and publishing research articles in clinical journals. Additionally, she has provided expert testimony and legislative address on the topics of trafficking, homelessness, and child sexual abuse. She has been active in her community including serving on boards and committees for Meals on Wheels of America, Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance, North Texas Association for Play Therapy, and Children’s Advocacy Center of Texas Partner Agency Council.

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Ashley Elgin is the Cheif Executive Officer of Lena Pope.

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