(Neb)-Miss Chadron Kaelia Nelson Loses Struggle With Mental Illness
PERU, Neb. - Kaelia Nelson of Alliance, the reigning Miss Chadron, died over the weekend...apparently taking her own life at age 21.
Nemaha County Sheriff Brent Lottman says Nelson was found in her dorm room Sunday afternoon and is believed to have committed suicide with no foul play suspected
Nelson competed at the Miss Nebraska Pageant this past June as Miss Alliance with mental health her platform issue...opening up about her own battle with mental illnesses and revealing that she had attempted suicide in June of last year.
In a blog series written by Brandi Petersen before the pageant, Nelson spoke in depth about her suicide attempt, saying she "felt extremely alone and hopeless" in the battle against her illnesses and that she was coming forward because she didn't want anyone to feel alone or ashamed to admit to having a mental illness as she had in the past, especially since mental illness isn't their fault.
Nelson said she "made it my mission to speak out and share my story in hopes that people will see and understand that it can happen to anyone and it definitely not something to be ashamed of." Suicide is now the 10th leading cause of death in the United States and #2 among those 15 to 34, with 90% of victims suffering from mental illness.
As Miss Alliance and in her brief time as Miss Chadron, Nelson shared with audiences and individually what works in combating mental illness, depression, and suicidal thoughts - treatment, medication, and focusing on passions. She also wrote and published a book dealing with mental illness, but in the end tragically fell victim to her illness.
Nelson graduated from Hemingford High School in 2015 and attended Nebraska Wesleyan University in Lincoln for 3 semesters before transferring to Peru State last spring, where she was a cheerleader and active in a variety of activities.
Peru State President Dr Dan Hanson said in an email to students, faculty, and staff on Sunday night that the campus was deeply sadden to learn of Nelson's death and that it mourned her loss with her family and friends. The school also made counselors available and encouraged those deeply affect her death to contact its counseling services.
Her mother Shardel was the longtime director of the Miss Alliance Pageant and Kaelia often said she grew up in the pageant world, attending every Miss Nebraska Pageant since she was born and getting to know all the Miss Nebraska winners as they visited Alliance to speak at schools or take part in the local pageant.
Kaelia was a pageant Little Sister, then entered the Miss America's Outstanding Teen system, winning titles as Miss Chadron OT in 2011 and Miss Alliance OT in 2012 when she was 1st runner-up at the state pageant.
In 2015, Nelson was crowned Nebraska's Homecoming Queen and was 2nd runner-up for America's Homecoming Queen in competition in Memphis, Tenn, before moving into the Miss America system with her titles as Miss Alliance and Miss Chadron. She was recognized at last year's Miss Nebraska Pageant for raising the most money for the Children's Miracle Network.
Her cousin, Tosha Skinner, also competed in the pageant circuit and was a 3-time local titleholder including Miss Chadron 2014.
Services for Kaelia Nelson will be this Saturday at 2:00 at St John's Lutheran Church in Alliance. Memorial donations may be given to the family to be divided between a mental illness organization, the Miss Nebraska organization, and the Peru State College Cheer Team.
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