Miss Oklahoma USA Mariah Davis is hoping her story will let others struggling with their mental health know they are not alone.
The 24-year-old spent her childhood bouncing around the state with her sister and their single mother in a low-income household.
While she later discovered the world of pageantry at age 16, Davis was faced with anxiety and clinical depression during her high school years. Her personal battles worsened when she headed to the University of Oklahoma.
“My depression was like an infection that was never treated, so over the years it just got worse and worse,” Davis told People magazine on Wednesday. “I didn’t know how to handle it. I allowed it to continue to get the better of me, to continue to get swallowed up.”
Mariah Davis is representing Oklahoma in the upcoming Miss USA pageant.
According to the outlet, Davis skimped on taking the medication she’d been prescribed to help her mental health struggles because of “the associated stigma.” And even though Davis put her pageantry career on hold, there was no denying her depression needed to be addressed.
“Every year when I thought, ‘Maybe I’m old enough to partake in [pageants] again,’ my mental health just kind of told me, ‘No, you’re not good enough. You’re not ready,’” she explained.
“During that time, my mental health struggles really, really skyrocketed and led to an event one night that caused me to have an attempt on my life,” she continued. “Not that that is a level that people need to get to in order to decide they want better and decide that they want to fight and to heal, but for me, that’s what that led to.”
The outlet noted that Davis spent a week at an in-patient facility, followed by several weeks with her mother and stepfather. Davis said she’s grateful for the help she received.
If Mariah Davis wins the 2020 Miss USA pageant, she will be the first member of the Choctaw Nation to do so.
“Something changed in me,” she said. “I decided that that was not going to be the life that I lived and that there were things that I could still experience.”
Today, Davis is involved with Lift Up Your Sister, a community that provides a safe space for women to confide in one another.
“I had wished that I had this community of women back in the day, and right now there’s nothing stopping me from creating it,” she explained. “And not just creating it for myself, but making a safe place for all women to come to, to know that they can unload and that they will be supported.”
Davis is now gearing up to participate in the Miss USA pageant on Nov. 9. The show airs live from Elvis Presley’s Graceland in Memphis, Tenn. The outlet shared that if Davis wins, she will be the first member of the Choctaw Nation to do so.
But for Davis, the pageant represents more than just the chance to earn the crown.
“If I can change the course of somebody else’s life, then being this vulnerable and maybe sometimes getting emotional or uncomfortable, or even being judged, is all worth it,” she said.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).