A college cheerleader who had posted on social media about her struggles with mental health was announced dead Thursday, raising concerns about an alarming pattern among student athletes.
Arlana Miller, 19, was a cheerleader at Southern University and A&M College, a historically Black school in Louisiana.
“Our entire campus community is deeply saddened by the untimely death of Arlana Miller, a freshman who was majoring in agriculture on the Baton Rouge campus,” the school said in a statement. “Arlana was a native of Texas and one of our Southern University cheerleaders. We offer our sincerest prayers and condolences to her family, classmates, teammates, and all who knew and loved her.”
The school did not share a cause of death, but its athletic department said it had confirmed Miller had died after being “notified of a social media post which ultimately led to this unfortunate announcement.”
In a recent Instagram post that has since been removed, Miller indicated she planned to take her own life after years of struggling with her mental health. She cited the COVID-19 pandemic, tearing her ACL ligament and struggling in classes as recent hurdles.
The university’s cheerleading coach, Floyd Sias, described Miller as an integral part of the team.
“Arlana made an impact on our team in a short time,” he said in a statement. “She was extremely dedicated to her sport, a tremendously hard worker, and a warm and engaging young woman. She will be missed. Our thoughts are with her family; her teammates and friends.”
The deaths of several other female student athletes have recently captured national attention.
Last month, 21-year-old Sarah Shulze, a runner on the University of Wisconsin’s track and cross country teams, died by suicide. Days later, James Madison University announced that 20-year-old Lauren Bernett, a hard-hitting catcher on its softball team, had died. The school did not provide a cause of death, but it directed people to text and phone contacts for people in crisis.
In March, 22-year-old Katie Meyer, the goalkeeper and captain of the Stanford University women’s soccer team, was found dead of suicide in her dorm. Her parents told NBC’s “Today” that she had recently received an email from the school about a disciplinary action.
In the wake of those deaths, former college athletes and psychologists have spoken out about the unique pressures students face when juggling their personal life and education with their athletic commitments and aspirations.
“Student-athletes on campuses are hit with more pressure to perform and excel,” Josie Nicholson, a sports psychologist and counselor at the University of Mississippi, told The Washington Post last week. “They live such hectic schedules with so many expectations. … There’s not really much time to stop and process anything.”
If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also text HOME to 741-741 for free, 24-hour support from the Crisis Text Line. Outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of resources.
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