BUFFALO, N.Y. — The conversation about mental health in America has only intensified during the pandemic.
Folks and businesses are up against more and things will likely stay this way for a while.
In many circumstances, they are up against it alone too. Dealing with financial, emotional, mental, social, and personal pressures in isolation can feel insurmountable in its own right, even when you have access to mental health resources, let alone if you don't.
On Sunday, the conversation about mental health hit the limelight again when reports surfaced that 30-year-old Cheslie Kryst, former Miss America 2019 had died by apparent suicide.
According to the New York Police Department, Kryst died after jumping from a building in Manhattan. Her family has since issued a statement.
While the investigation is ongoing, Kryst was known to use her platform to talk about the importance of mental health - especially in communities of color where access to equitable care is an ongoing issue.
News of Kryst's tragic and untimely death traveled fast, with tributes continuing to pour in across all platforms.
Elizabeth Mauro is CEO of Endeavor Health Services, a community mental health organization that has been serving Western New York for fifty years. Mauro tells 2 On Your Side, as soon as she read the news her heart dropped.
"It's really really heartbreaking," Mauro says of Kryst's death. "The pandemic, on top of life's pre-existing challenges, has just pushed people to their breaking point."
When looking at youth and mental health in 2022 Mauro says, "it's a health crisis. And I'm not exaggerating when I say that, because we're losing a whole generation."
In addition to being a crowned champion, Kryst was an attorney who volunteered her time fighting for criminal justice reform, she was also a charismatic entertainment news correspondent. But like with many young professionals, the pressure of life can take its toll.
"It shows you," Mauro emphasizes, "if you're emotionally not healthy and you're in pain, then that permeates everything. I think sometimes it's even harder. If you're successful, right? If you're in the public eye if you have everything that people say that you're supposed to have, yet you're still sad or you're still in pain. It can be even harder for people to seek help."
According to Mental Health America, the nation's leading community-based nonprofit dedicated to meeting the needs of those living with mental illness, the percentage of adults and youth living with untreated mental illness is only growing.
In fact, when looking at the state of mental health in America in 2022, MHA found several key findings, two of which include the following data:
- Over half of adults with a mental illness do not receive mental health treatment.
- Over 60% of youth with major depression do not receive any mental health treatment, especially multi-racial youth.
Which further highlights the importance of access to care and affordable insurance coverage.
Dr. Raul Vazquez is president of Urban Family Practice on Buffalo's West Side and a Family Medicine Specialist and says what is so important about Kryst's story, while incredibly tragic, is that she had access to care.
"She had access, you know, and I think that's really important, in terms of what we do going forward and how we approach this mental health crisis and the needs of our young people," Vazquez says. "If it happens to her, it can definitely happen to, you know, 90% of the people that are not like her, and I think it's something that we really have to address."
If you or someone you know are in need of help, there are resources:
Endeavor Health Services: 716 896 7350
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800 273 8255
Crisis Services (Buffalo & Erie County): 716 834 3131
Erie County Department of Mental Health: 716 858 8530