‘This was a suicide attempt, and I did survive’: Recognizing the signs of a mental health crisis and how to help

Death of former Miss USA sparks mental health conversation

Beauty, brains, education, accomplishments; It leaves so many people scratching their heads and saying, why her? Cheslie Kryst, a young woman with everything going for her, a recent Miss USA, tv personality, an attorney with deep ties in the community of helping others? Jordan Burnham knows that feeling well. When he was an athlete, he was popular at school, yet he wore a mask.

DETROIT – Former Miss USA Cheslie Kryst died Sunday morning, according to her family. She was 30 years old. Police say she died by suicide.

Her death has sparked a conversation about mental health. Jordan Burnham is the director of training at Minding Your Mind, an organization that helps those with mental health struggles know they’re not alone through the power of storytelling.

Burnham was 18-years-old when he survived a suicide attempt. He said he remembers the two and a half seconds before trying to end his life as blindly hopeless, unable to see the light or future. He remembers the two and a half seconds it took to stop the pain, and he remembers the two and a half seconds when he realized he survived his suicide attempt.

“Being in the hospital, it was pretty much guaranteed that I would never get out of a hospital bed, never walk again or get my physical life back,” Burnham said. “So, when I woke up and realized what happened and that this was a suicide attempt and I did survive, I was just grateful.”

Dana Lensenby is the CEO and Executive Director of Oakland Community Health Network, which provides various services throughout the metro area.

“We’re all good covers for ourselves, and we put on a good face, and we fake it till we make it,” said Lesenby. “Some of us carry that pain and it gets deeper and deeper. They become helpless.”

Our experts say there is a difference between a bad day, a streak of bad days, and pain that leads someone to a path to want to end that pain, and it often starts with small patterns.

“What we know about people who’ve died by suicide is that they often give things away or they say goodbye or they start to sort of isolate a little more,” Lesenby said.

Dr. Michele Reid is the Chief Medical Officer at CNS Healthcare, providing various mental health services in Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties.

“I’ve seen it in terms of people, not necessarily a psychiatric problem, a nuance set of a medical problems, like a new-onset diagnosis of cancer,” Dr. Reid said. “The loss of a family member, the loss of a job, some substance uses. They may not be people that are in formal treatment.”

If you see those patterns, even with a bright smile on the outside, it’s better to speak up and offend than to keep your concerns to yourself.

“When I think of hope, I think of being in a dark room,” Burnham said. “All you need is that little crack in the door of just that beam of light, knowing that you’re not alone, and I think that whenever we say just hold on, but especially just for today, I think that can seem like a more attainable goal for so many people who are struggling.”

If you suspect someone even slightly contemplating suicide, you don’t have to go full-on and or be aggressive. Still, you should confront them, ask very specific questions, demand very specific answers, and just hang out with them to be sure so that you won’t be sorry.

Read: Get the help you need: Where to find mental health services in Southeast Michigan


About the Authors:

Paula Tutman is an Emmy award-winning journalist who came to Local 4 in 1992. She's a Peace Corps alum who spent her early childhood living in Sierra Leone, West Africa and Tanzania and East Africa.

Brandon Carr is a digital content producer for ClickOnDetroit and has been with WDIV Local 4 since November 2021. Brandon is the 2015 Solomon Kinloch Humanitarian award recipient for Community Service.