Why did Cheslie Kryst, a former Miss USA with a law degree, MBA and a gig in front of the camera on celebrity TV show “Extra,” jump to her death from a posh Manhattan apartment? As the cliché says, she had everything to live for.
We have heard a lot about suicides as deaths of despair, with “desperation” often defined as drug addiction, job loss and declining income. As far as we know, Kryst did not suffer from these afflictions. But again, neither fashion powerhouse Kate Spade nor celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, who both took their own lives.
Despair takes many forms. Trying to suggest a reason for Kryst’s suicide, the New York Daily News landed on the angst she apparently felt about growing old, a particular concern for women who rely on their looks for approval.
Kryst was 30, perhaps a time when a woman begins to age off the label of young beauty. But what about his law degree? Lawyers in their thirties are building their careers.
For those of us who can’t imagine turning 30 as a cause for despair, let alone a reason to die, it may be enlightening to read Kryst’s astonishing words in a recent essay for Allure magazine.
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“A smiling, puckered look at my accomplishments so far makes me want to set the stage for more,” she wrote, “but turning 30 is a chilling reminder that I’m running out of time to matter. in the eyes of society – – and it’s infuriating.”
Also, “society has never been kind to those who age, especially women.”
Although by any standard of beauty Kryst is still one, it’s hard to deny that women who age don’t lose the visibility that men of the same age retain. But this versatile villain, society, has no army. It’s pretty much in people’s minds.
We need to look at the nature of suicide. Kay Redfield Jamison, an authority on mood disorders, cites mental illness, particularly untreated depression, as the most important risk factor for suicide. Downplaying the role of external issues, she cited a suicide note written in 1931 by successful artist Ralph Barton.
“I had few real hardships,” he wrote, and “more than my share of affection and appreciation.” He said “the melancholy” rather than the problems in his life were his torment and that people looking elsewhere would have been wrong.
Suicide attempts are often impulsive, caused by fleeting tantrums, experts say. And that’s why suicide rates among handgun owners are particularly high. Death is quick and certain. There is no call to 911 when a person administering a drug overdose is in doubt.
Marilyn Monroe was another case of a troubled woman who relied on physical attraction. Monroe was 36 when she was likely planning to kill herself from a barbiturate overdose. The Hollywood bombshell was found dead with a phone in her hand, leading police to speculate she was trying to call for help at the time.
It should be noted that Kryst had other things going for her at the time. She had worked on the reform of the American judicial system. She did free legal work for prisoners suspected of being wrongfully sentenced. And she created a fashion blog, which allowed her to shine behind a keyboard rather than in front of a camera.
Jumping out of a window doesn’t change your mind, which made Kryst’s death even more tragic. Intervention by a mental health professional could have reversed the deep emotional dive that had driven her to self-destruction.
This is the case for so many others suffering from mental anguish who, unlike Kryst, did not have the financial resources to seek help. How terribly heartbreaking that Kryst has no one to pull her from the brink.
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