Former Miss USA Cheslie Kryst’s mother on high-functioning depression, coping with grief: ‘She was taken from me’

When former Miss USA Cheslie Kryst walked into her mother’s house, it was like an advertisement.

“All my other kids would walk in the front door very quietly and go into the kitchen and they could say hello. She would open the door and say, ‘Hi, Mom,'” their mother, April Simpkins, told “CBS Mornings.”

Her vibrant and bubbly personality instantly lit up the lives of those in Kryst’s life.

But that light dimmed after the 30-year-old killed himself in January. His mother said that Kryst struggled with depression for several years despite the happy appearance he presented to the world.

“Depression doesn’t always seem like someone is sad or overwhelmed. It’s something Cheslie has learned to live with,” Simpkins said.

Kryst’s accomplishments include being a former Division I athlete, attorney, winning the Miss USA pageant in May 2019, and becoming a correspondent for the entertainment news show “Extra.”

ATLANTA, GEORGIA – DECEMBER 8: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY) Miss USA Cheslie Kryst appears onstage at the 2019 Miss Universe Pageant at Tyler Perry Studios on December 8, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images)

Despite being beautiful and successful, Simpkins said her daughter was a high-functioning depressed person who had previously attempted suicide in her early 20s.

It was after that attempt that Simpkins said that he would try to always be there for Kryst, no matter what she needed.

“You know, I lived in two worlds. I loved her very much and deeply, but the other world knew that she was struggling with depression. And she and I had very intimate conversations about what she needs from me for support,” he said. . “So, I gave her what she needed from me. And Cheslie took from everyone what she needed from them: a hug, a smile, a kind word. She got what she needed.”

The two were more than mother and daughter, but best friends. Kryst’s death left such a void in Simpkins’ life that she began attending grief counseling, something she recommends to those grieving.

“Losing someone so suddenly feels like they’ve been taken from me, like they’ve been taken out of my life. I don’t know how to cry like that. I’ve never had to before. So I don’t know what it looks like.” And talking to someone to know that what I’m feeling, what I’m doing is normal and it’s healthy,” she said.

Simpkins has many memories with his daughter, but he holds on to a recent trip to the Turks and Caicos Islands the two took together.

“We built sand castles, we walked on the beach. We ate breakfast. We shopped. That’s one of my favorite memories of her,” he recalled.

While Kryst’s death has left those whose lives she touched less bright, Simpkins hopes Kryst’s legacy lives on through acts of kindness.

“She left a legacy of kindness, of standing up to help and support others and it’s in those acts that I see her. So I’ve been asking a lot of people to stand up, be kind, those are ways that I know Cheslie has impacted someone enough … that they’re doing something to honor her,” Simpkins said.

If you or someone you know is struggling, help is available 24/7 at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Just call 1-800-273-8255. For more resources, please click here.

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