Mother of former Miss USA Cheslie Kryst uses daughter’s story to raise awareness about mental health

April Simpkins, is now certified in mental health first aid and is using her daughter’s story to educate others.
Published: May. 15, 2023 at 8:00 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - WIS joins a national movement during the month of May to raise awareness about mental health.

Mental health has many faces including those who you have seen in the spotlight like Cheslie Kryst.

Kryst a graduate of the University of South Carolina, was a licensed attorney, a D1 athlete, Miss USA 2019, an Emmy Award-nominated Television host, mentor, advocate, daughter, sister, and friend.

Kryst died by suicide in January 2022.

Her mother April Simpkins, says Cheslie battled high-functioning depression for years.

“There became a time in her life when she began to struggle with her mental health, and I mentioned last year that there was a first attempt, and after her first attempt, she and I grew very very close. We learned how to have very frank conversations, and quite truthfully, I went into counseling so I could learn how to be a support for her the right way,” Simpkins said.

Since Kryst’s death, her mother tells WIS she has dedicated her time to helping others battling with mental health issues.

Simpkins is now certified in mental health first aid and a member of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Piedmont Tri-County.

“The words that we use, the comfort level with talking to people about your mental health and their mental health it’s critical. Getting Mental health first aid certified was really important to me,” said Simpkins, “I needed the words to use when I am talking to someone who may just need someone to listen without judgment, blame, shame, or criticism and those are just some of the things I learned.”

A year after Kryst’s death, her family partnered with NAMI to create the Cheslie C. Kryst Memorial Fund for Mental Health. The fund helps honor her life and legacy while providing help and hope to others experiencing mental health challenges.

If you are experiencing depression or thoughts of suicide, you are not alone. To reach the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, call or text 988, or visit to use the online chat.

To find local mental health resources near you, visit

If you or someone you know need help, contact NAMI HelpLine.
If you or someone you know need help, contact NAMI HelpLine.(WIS)

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