‘This can happen to anyone:’ Mental health experts react to death of former Miss USA

The 2019 Miss USA winner was an attorney and a news correspondent, but on the inside, she was fighting a battle. It’s a battle Tonja Myles knows all-too-well.
Published: Jan. 31, 2022 at 11:03 PM CST
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - On the outside, Cheslie Kryst appeared to have it all. The 2019 Miss USA winner was an attorney and a news correspondent, but on the inside, she was fighting a battle. It’s a battle Tonja Myles knows all too well.

“I know firsthand about depression, and anxiety, and thoughts of suicide. They’re real,” said Myles.

Kryst died by suicide, and on three different occasions, Myles tried to do the same.

”I thought my only option was to end my life,” said Myles.

Myles survived, and is now a mental health advocate in the Baton Rouge area.

She said talks around mental health have gone ignored for too long, but in some communities, it’s almost taboo to talk about.

”When they say how they feel, we need hear them. A lot of times we just say they’ll be fine, or you’re a man and suck it up, look. Feelings are real, we all have them, but we all process them different. Life happens, but we have to let them know there’s hope,” said Myles.

”This can happen to anyone,” Maya Galathe, a licensed trauma therapist.

Galathe said more Black people are suffering than ever before, and the numbers prove it.

”National suicide rates dropped, but in the black community, it went significantly up. We’re talking 30% up,” said Galathe.

She said there’s a culture within the Black community of just praying about it and keeping your issues in-house, but that must come to an end.

”Just getting rid of those outdated, untrue beliefs, and creating safe spaces for people to talk about those struggles,” said Galathe.

But what do you do if you see someone struggling? Experts say a simple question or two is a good start.

”If you don’t know what to do, ask them this. Where does it hurt, and how can I help,” said Myles. “I have PTSD, my brain does not work like everyone else’s, and that’s why I’m so passionate about it. The fact that I get to tell my story, I’m grateful because that means I’m still alive.”

If you’re ever in need of help, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline number is 800-273-8255.

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