Mental health experts weigh in on 'high-functioning depression' after former Miss USA takes own life

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Posted at 5:27 PM, Feb 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-03 19:44:33-05

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — "High-functioning depression." That's how the mother of former Miss USA Cheslie Kryst described her daughter's emotional state when she took her own life last week.

Mental health professionals are sounding the alarm that this is a problem that is hidden in plain sight. News 3's Kelsey Jones spoke with a local athlete who's raising awareness that people may appear to be strong on the outside while struggling on the inside.

"I didn't really know I was depressed until I was doing things I really wouldn't do, and days just went by and things weren't changing," said Keyshawn Davis, a boxer and mental health advocate.

Norfolk's very own 2021 Olympics silver medalist, Davis fought many battles outside the boxing ring that many people didn't see at 18 years old.

"I'd just snap. I would snap at all my family, or I'd just start being real, real verbal, like cussing people out," Davis said.

That prompted Davis to realize he wasn't himself. He dealt with depression, anxiety and anger management issues, severe enough that a school counselor contacted his older sister Shanice to get him into a mental health facility.

"When I got in there, it really just gave me a different outlook on life. It gave me an opportunity to form my own life," Davis said.

Davis said suicidal thoughts did cross his mind, but he said he watched younger children in the facility open up and felt that if they were able to do so, he could too. But it's not as easy for some.

Dr. Sarah Williams, a licensed psychotherapist, said, "A person that has high-functioning depression, they're not exhibiting some of the observable signs right away."

Williams said because the signs of high-functioning depression are hard to see, it's good for families and friends to have mental health interventions before it's too late.

"Having those reflective conversations, getting beneath the surface, not just asking, 'How are you?' but asking an open-ended question such as, 'When was the last time you felt happy? What are some things that I can do differently for us to connect?'" Williams said.

Turning his pain into power, Davis now has a bigger focus outside the ring.

"I'm just a person out here that's willing to talk about my story, just to help other people out," Davis said.

If you know someone who is struggling with mental illness, resources can be their lifeline. By reaching out and encouraging connection, it can save a life.

Here are links with more information and resources:

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

CDC: Facts about Suicide

What Parents Need to Know