Mental Health — The Time is Now
We are undoubtedly living and leading in times that none of us has ever experienced.
Another life is tragically gone too soon at the hands of suicide.
Cheslie Kryst died this past Sunday morning at the age of 30 in New York City. She took home the top honors at the Miss USA Pageant back in 2019 as Miss North Carolina. Kryst was a former Division I student-athlete, an attorney with an MBA, and an Emmy nominated correspondent for entertainment media company ExtraTV.
But beyond the accolades, Cheslie Kryst was a daughter, sister, friend, mentor and colleague. Her family released a statement saying: “Her great light was one that inspired others around the world with her beauty and strength. She cared, she loved, she laughed and she shined.”
Every suicide is an immeasurable and shattering tragedy. According to the World Health Organization, approximately 703,000 people take their own lives every year, and many more people attempt suicide. As leaders and positive difference-makers, we must cultivate greater empathy and self-awareness to understand that we never honestly know what our team members may be going through and carrying.
Realize depression, anxiety, and various other mental health issues and illnesses do not have a look. People typically do not outwardly wear these emotions and feelings. They are suppressed and masked beneath the surface. There is no such thing as a tough person and someone who has it all together. We are all battling something that another person knows absolutely nothing about.
Our lives thrive on connection, support, belonging, and the meaningful relationship with ourselves, our minds and others. Understand one can appear to have everything and still feel like he/she has nothing. It is beyond imperative for us as leaders and agents of change to not make assumptions about another person’s mental and emotional well-being solely based on what our eyes can interpret on the surface.
In 2021, Kryst wrote an essay for Allure magazine reflecting on turning 30 and her journey to overcoming the relentless pressure to achieve. She courageously and vulnerably penned:
“I discovered that the world’s most important question, especially when asked repeatedly and answered frankly, is: why? Why earn more achievements just to collect another win? Why pursue another plaque or medal or line item on my résumé if it’s for vanity’s sake, rather than out of passion? Why work so hard to capture the dreams I’ve been taught by society to want when I continue to find only emptiness?”
Cheslie’s words are prolific. They are profound, pure and truthful. While she is no longer with us physically, her story, infectious spirit, grace, and daring bravery live on and are teaching us powerful life lessons in this present moment.
We are undoubtedly living and leading in times that none of us has ever experienced. If we turn a blind eye to this most critical moment and real conversation around mental health and well-being, there will be adverse effects within our organizations, teams, institutions, and global communities for generations to come.
People are suffering in silence. We, as leaders, are suffering in silence. Suffering does not make us weak or inadequate. It makes us human. It makes us real people emersed in a human experience. We should not feel ashamed or fearful to speak on these issues or seek the necessary tools, resources, support and help to overcome and move through the suffering.
Dismantling the stigma and taboo around mental health is the crucial work that we need to invest in and prioritize in our living and organizational culture. Formulating solutions and changing the narrative on mental health will require a deeper level of intent, trust, buy-in, active listening, empathy, courage, and vulnerability. We can start today as leaders and positive-difference makers by not underestimating the power of that kind word, touch, hug or smile. People will never forget how you made them feel.
Cheslie Kryst’s last public words on her Instagram account hours before she died on Sunday were, “May this day bring you rest and peace.”
Our Daily Coach team sends our heartfelt and deepest condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of Cheslie Kryst.
And to Cheslie, may you rest in comfort, eternal tranquility, light and power wearing your royal crown that was always your birthright.
If you or someone you know are having thoughts of suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for a list of additional resources.
You are seen. You are appreciated. You are loved. You are valued. You are enough.
It is okay not to have it all figured out on this journey. It's okay not to be okay. Life is a marathon. In time, you will emerge from this storm different from the person who first encountered it. Recognize that these moments of enlightenment, self-discovery, and transformation — no matter the days, weeks, months, and years it takes — become the beauty of life.