Note: This article mentions suicide. If you or a friend need to talk to someone now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255. 

On Sunday Jan. 30, Cheslie Kryst was found dead in New York City. Kryst was a licensed civil litigation attorney and also worked with the Buried Alive Project, a non-profit organization that works to free people sentenced to life imprisonment for drug-related offenses. 

Kryst ran a blog called White Collar Glam which she used to help women express their identity through fashion and the clothes they wear to work, and in 2019, she won the pageantry title of Miss USA. 

According to the the New York Police Department, Kryst’s death was a result of a fall from a high-rise building in Manhatten, and after further investigation the police ruled it as a suicide. Just hours before her death, Kryst posted a photo to her Instagram account with the caption, “May this day bring you rest and peace.” 

On Tuesday Jan. 25, representatives from Hyattsville, Md. announced that their 2021 elected mayor, Kevin Ward, passed away from “an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.” Ward is survived by a husband and two teenage sons. 

These sudden, public and tragic deaths have brought attention to the climbing suicide rates afflicting our country, and they are not the only ones. 

Ian Alexander Jr., son of American actress Regina King, took his life on Jan. 22 at 26 years old. Peter Robbins, voice actor for Charlie Brown took his life on Jan. 18 at 65 years old. CEO and General Manager of the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA), Jeffrey Parker, took his life on Jan. 15 at 55 years old. These deaths, along with many others that did not garner media attention, have shown that suicide is a national public health crisis in the U.S. 

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) reports that there are an average of 130 suicides per day. Based on this statistic, there have been, approximately, over 4,000 suicides in the last 34 days; that’s more deaths than the number of undergraduate students on Berry’s campus. 

In short, people are hurting. Suicide affects individuals, families, friends, communities and even countries. It does not discriminate against gender, race, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, income, social status, marital status or any other demographic category. 

Feeling isolated and alone does not always equate to being physically isolated, and that mental feeling of being alone can be harmful. We’re talking about a CEO, Miss USA, a mayor and Hollywood celebrities, people who the world wants to believe, because of social norms, have everything they could ever want. But the fact of the matter is, our minds and our thoughts are more powerful than any title, salary or status. 

It’s a hard concept to grapple with, but you will never know what the person next to you is thinking. No matter how convincing the front they show the rest of the world is, their internal thoughts could consist of things that are entirely different. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes one of the obstacles to overcoming the rising suicide rates is stigma. Suicide is a sensitive subject that should be addressed with care and understanding but conversation surrounding suicide should not be repressed. 

That is why one of our top priorities should be fostering a culture that makes talking about mental health not only acceptable, but also encouraged. We cannot address suicide prevention sufficiently until we, as a society, challenge the lack of awareness and eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health in general. 

Talking about mental health makes it more acceptable to talk about mental struggles. Mental health means recognizing and accepting all of your emotions and thoughts (no matter what they may be) in order to better cope with them in healthy ways; it’s quite literally taking care of your mind the way we’re told to take care of our bodies. 

Dealing with suicidal thoughts may be a result of a trigger, like a loss, pressure, stress or anxiety. It’s a myth that someone who appears to have their life together isn’t at risk of suicide. It’s a myth that suicide only affects individuals who have been diagnosed with a mental illness. 

Everyone goes through a time in their life when they need a sense of community and they need to lean on those around them. We need more outlets for people to do this. We need more compassion. We need to be there for people who are there for us. 

The late mayor, Ward, once said in an interview, “ I’m just as human as everybody else in the city.” The one thing we all have in common (whether we like it or not) is that we are all human. As humans we have to take care of each other because no one should have to take this journey we call life alone. 

Posted by Campus Carrier

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