On January 30, Cheslie Kryst, Miss USA 2019, died by suicide. With a law degree and an MBA, she was a civil attorney, a correspondent for Extra, and served on the national board for Big Brothers Big Sisters. In addition, she was strikingly beautiful.
From an outsider’s perspective, Kryst had it all, which is why people were stunned when she jumped to her death. Her mom, April Simpkins, disclosed Cheslie’s private pain in a public statement: “Cheslie led both a public and a private life. In her private life, she was dealing with high-functioning depression which she hid from everyone—including me, her closest confidant—until very shortly before her death.”
I don’t know what all contributed to her struggle, but as someone whose life has been impacted by suicide, I do know that most everyone will struggle at some point with loneliness, depression, the blues, anxiety, or stress. After all, these are human emotions.
Perhaps your struggle is dramatic. Maybe your world was rocked by the car accident or the overdose or the sudden divorce. Perhaps yours is the day-to-day isolation brought on over the past two years. Maybe the career change and subsequent move left you feeling alone. Or you just struggle with the lies that rattle around in your brain—that you aren’t valuable, that no one likes you.
So in a hurting, broken world, what can we do? While I love this quote from Gandhi, “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” I love the apostle Paul’s quote even more: “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).
Caring for people who are hurting and allowing others to carry you when you hurt is simply how God designed the Christian family—and here are some ways we can start.
Value others—Our current social climate places labels on people that do far more to divide than to unite. These labels place us on a “side,” and we start to look at the “other side” with little understanding, nuance, or kindness.
Go out of your way to tell your neighbor, friend, child, coworker, or church leader that you care about them, especially if they hold differing opinions on topics. Compliment people’s work, children, volunteer efforts in the community or how they handled a situation. Look people in the eyes and hug them.
Limit social media—A Cigna study showed that 73 percent of heavy social-media users feel lonely. It provides a false sense of friendship without any of the benefits from actual contact. But how do you get over the fear of missing out? A University of Pennsylvania study suggests using it for only 30 minutes a day will help.
Create community—Don’t mistake communication for connection. After all, Cheslie posted on Instagram right before she died, which made it seem as if she was in touch with her world. We can communicate all day on social media or at work, but without true connection, our very social world is actually very isolating. So make one small change. Arrange a monthly phone call with a faraway friend or a coffee with a nearby friend, join a networking group, volunteer. Don’t use the self-checkout lane. Invite a coworker to a craft brewery, have people over for dinner, or start a Bible study. Sit by a parent you don’t know at the forensics meet and introduce yourself. Ask a neighbor to help you paint the living room and then help them organize their basement or garage.
Ask for help—Tell others you’re having a rough day, or share your parenting struggles with a trusted friend. When you admit your weaknesses, you are helping people fulfill their God-given task to care for others. And your vulnerability may make it possible for others to open up also. And, by all means, seek out professional help. Some burdens need the trained help that counselors can provide.
Rest in Jesus—In our loneliness, it’s easy to think we are the only ones who ever struggle. We aren’t. Jesus knows. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin” (Hebrews 4:15).
He didn’t have a home for his entire adult life and was betrayed by one of his closest friends. When he was jailed on false charges, the rest of his friends deserted him too. While hanging on a cross in agony, even God deserted him. So Jesus really gets it; he really gets it. And the reason he went through all of it was so that you would never be truly—or eternally—alone.
P.S. If the situation is urgent and you know someone in crisis mode, be blunt and ask, “Do you have a plan?” If possible, remove the means for them to hurt themselves, whether weapons or pills. If needed, call 911 immediately or reach out to the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
P.P.S. Time of Grace writers and speakers have addressed the topic of suicide a number of times. If you’re looking for more information, here are a few of the messages: Supporting the ones left behind by suicide, 5 video devotions on suicide, talking to your kids about 13 Reasons Why, “13 Reasons Why Not,” “Getting someone off the ledge.”
Linda Buxa is a writer and editor who needs to stop using the self-checkout lane.