Tragic death of Miss USA 2019 brings up conversation about mental health

Orlando native and Miss America 2004 Ericka Dunlap said she exchanged messages with Cheslie Kryst in the past

ORLANDO, Fla. – The news of the tragic death of Miss USA 2019, Cheslie Kryst, came as a shock to Orlando native and Miss America 2004, Ericka Dunlap.

“She had it all together and I think a lot of people don’t take for an account that those who seem to have it all together may be fighting battles within them that they just can’t express to people,” Dunlap said.

Dunlop said she never met Krsyt, who took her own life, but said they exchanged messages on Instagram.

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“On the exterior everything was perfect, she’s just lovely and she’s smart, she was a lawyer, she had a great heart, she did a lot of pro bono work to give justice to wrongly incarcerated individuals, she was just a model,” Dunlap said.

Dunlap told News 6 she also understands the pressure her title brought along.

“The pressure is super real because people expect for you to always look like you did when you were 20, 21 whenever you won,” she said. “People always expect for you to be a goodwill ambassador and be happy and to be giving and life happens. You know, personal life happens to everyone. No matter what your title, no matter what your job maybe.”

Although it’s unknown the reasons for Kryst’s decision to jump from her high-rise apartment building in New York, depression and mental health issues are something Dunlap can relate to. Seven years ago, Dunlap lost her boyfriend after he took his life.

“When you hear stuff like this and you are someone who has--is a survivor, it is triggering, and it does bring back some memories of why? What happened? Why couldn’t you reach out to somebody? If they only knew how important they are to the world and the impact that they’re making on the world, maybe they’d make a different choice,” she said.

Dunlap said some of the ways she’s been able to get through her grief is by talking, taking a walk, or some form of exercise.

“Sometimes you just have to get those emotions out of you and it’s a cleansing of your soul,” she said. “The way that I’ve dealt with a lot of things is just through a lot of therapy and different modalities of therapy, and I don’t believe in talking to someone is the only way; I feel like there are other ways to get healing and there are other ways for you to feel mindful in this very moment. Whether it’s being out in nature, stretching, doing yoga, breathing; wearing colors you know, a lot of times when people are depressed they don’t really wear bright colors and so often that will help you change your mood.”

Dunlap also stressed the importance of others reaching out to their loved ones if they see any signs of emotional instability.

“It’s so important to pick up the phone and not just text but call or send a video or somehow really touch the person that you’re trying to reach out to. You just don’t know what they’re going through and you don’t know what it is to wake up every morning,” she said. “Every moment is important, every breath is precious. If you wake up every day it’s God giving you yet another chance to fulfill your purpose.”