ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — Sunday’s death of Miss USA 2019, Cheslie Kryst, by an alleged suicide has left many people stunned. It is also shining a light on mental health.

Mental health issues can be a struggle for many people and experts say the ongoing pandemic that we have been experiencing for the past two years is not helping.

“There has been a great uptick in depression amongst people and maladaptive coping,” said licensed professional counselor Althea Dent.

Dent has been practicing mental health therapy for over 10 years and opened Insights & Inspiration, LLC in Roanoke during the pandemic. She says the ability to meet with clients online through telehealth was part of the reason she decided to start her own practice during this unconventional time in the world.

“It takes down a lot of the barriers of distance and travel if you’re in a rural setting and there isn’t much access,” Dent said.

Cedric Wilson, a licensed professional counselor and owner of the Seeking Wellness Counseling Center in Roanoke, has worked in the mental health industry for 12 years and opened his private practice nearly two years ago. He says the pandemic is pushing more people to seek help.

“At least for me and my practice, I have noticed that there has been an increase in requests for counseling but I’m not if that necessarily means there has been an increase in mental health issues or needs,” Wilson said.

WFXR News reached out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and spoke with Sherrard Crespo. She is a licensed master social worker with Via Link, an organization that answers some of the calls made to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

According to Crespo, she has also noticed an escalation in calls.

“I think local media, social media, and even more national media are paying more attention to spread awareness about these helplines that are available so I think that has been part of why that number has gone up,” said Crespo.

Dent and Wilson agree with Crespo, saying while they have seen a rise in the number of people seeking help, it does not necessarily mean more people are having difficulties. Instead, they all believe the pandemic is pushing more people to be brave enough to ask for assistance.

“I think it kind of pushed people to a point where they would allow themselves to reach out for help and support,” said Crespo.

“The more that has gone on I think we have been able to hide less from our issues, from the things that bother us,” said Wilson.

“[The pandemic] is bringing mental health services to a larger range of people who have maybe been a little marginalized before,” said Dent.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress. You can reach them by calling 1-800-273-8255 or by visiting https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/.