1. Home
  2. Science
  3. Health
  4. news
  5. Former Miss USA Cheslie Kryst's mother said she had high-functioning depression. Here's what that means.

Former Miss USA Cheslie Kryst's mother said she had high-functioning depression. Here's what that means.

Anna Medaris,Anneta Konstantinides   

Former Miss USA Cheslie Kryst's mother said she had high-functioning depression. Here's what that means.
  • Former Miss USA Cheslie Kryst's new memoir was finished by her mother, April Simpkins.
  • Simpkins discussed Kryst's struggle with high-functioning depression before her death in 2022.

A new memoir by former Miss USA Cheslie Kryst was released on Tuesday. "By the Time You Read This" was finished by her mother, April Simpkins, who said it was one of her daughter's final wishes.

It explores Kryst's experience competing for Miss USA and Miss Universe, as well as Simpkins' journey after her daughter died by suicide in January 2022.

"My life's purpose has changed, and I realize more clearly my life's mission to continue to shine a bright light on mental health and wellness," Simpkins wrote in the memoir.

Simpkins also discusses her daughter's struggle with high-functioning depression. The term, which is not an official medical diagnosis, describes depression among people who maintain, or even appear to thrive in, happy-looking, productive lives, experts told Business Insider.

"Although successful and oftentimes leaders in their fields, these individuals are conducting their lives much like running a race with a weight belt carrying 100 extra pounds," John Huber, a psychologist at Mainstream Mental Health, told Healthline.

Kryst was an attorney, reporter, and Miss USA titleholder

Kryst won the Miss USA title in 2019 while representing North Carolina, and made the top 10 at Miss Universe that same year. She was also a complex-litigation attorney and worked as a host for Extra TV.

In a statement sent to BI after Kryst's death, Simpkins said that while her daughter's "life on this earth was short, it was filled with many beautiful memories."

"We miss her laugh, her words of wisdom, her sense of humor, and mostly her hugs," she said. "We miss all of it, we miss all of her. Cheslie — to the world, you were a ball of sunshine wrapped in smiles."

Simpkins added that she "talked, FaceTimed, or texted" her daughter "all day, every day."

"You were more than a daughter — you were my very best friend," Simpkins said. "Talking with you was one of the best parts of my day. Your smile and laugh were infectious. I love you baby girl with all my heart. I miss you desperately. I know one day we'll be together again. Until then, rest easy and in peace."

Kryst worked pro bono with clients serving long sentences for low-level drug offenses. She helped free one client who had been sentenced to life in prison. She also spent years raising funds for the nonprofits Dress for Success and Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, and also used her platform to support Black Lives Matter.

In 2019, Kryst was part of a historic moment when Miss Universe, Miss USA, Miss Teen USA, and Miss America all went to women of color. She told Business Insider at the time that being part of such a group was "surreal."

"I just think this is an important moment," she said. "And maybe people can carry this inspiration into other areas of their lives."

People in tech and entertainment may be vulnerable to high-functioning depression

About 8.4% of Americans 18 and over experience major depressive disorder any given year, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports. It's more common in women than men, and the medium age of onset is 32.5.

Dr. Mimi Winsberg, a psychiatrist and chief medical officer of Brightside, told BI that clinicians think of depression on a spectrum from mild to severe, and also consider patients' level of functioning. Can they get out of bed? Go to work? Engage socially?

"More often than not, severity correlates with a lower level of functioning, but some people can experience severe depression, even suicidal ideation, but continue to be high functioning in their outwardly facing lives," she said.

Winsberg lives in San Francisco and has worked as Facebook's on-site psychiatrist. She says that high performers in the tech and entertainment industries may be compelled to hide their internal pain due to the "pressure to keep up public appearances, or an environment that does not culturally sanction depression or where lower levels of functioning are less acceptable."

Getting help can be challenging since it "can involve acknowledging vulnerability and slowing down," Winsberg said.

If you suspect a loved one is struggling — unstable moods, sleep, relationships, and substance abuse can be clues, though not always — encourage them to get care, Winsberg said.

"Good treatments are available, even online and from the comfort of your home," she added.