Southern University is still mourning after the death of a cheerleader by suicide, sparks a conversation about mental health

Southern University is still mourning after the death of a cheerleader by suicide, sparks a conversation about mental health

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) – A Southern University family is still grieving after unexpectedly losing one of their own.

Arlana Miller was a cheerleader at Southern and died last week by suicide. Miller was just days away from graduating her freshman year. Miller’s former teammates released a balloon in her honor on Thursday, May 12.

RELATED: Bastrop father of Southern cheerleader speaks out after suicide

“It’s just absolutely shocking. It’s just someone you would never guess,” said MyKayla Reid.

In an extensive note posted on Instagram before she died, Miller detailed her struggles with mental health.

Her death has since sparked conversations about mental health and the resources available to students.

“She would always check on me to ask if I was okay, and I think that’s why I feel a little guilty because I wish I could have done that more for her,” Reid said.

Medical professionals at Southern say many young adults today are facing similar issues.

“The top three concerns college students present to their counseling centers are anxiety, depression and stress,” said Dr. Valaray Irvin.

Dr. Irvin is a licensed psychologist and the director of the counseling center at SU. She says the pandemic has compounded those problems, and social media has made things even worse.

“Especially among young women that I work with, the comparison they’ve put themselves through because of what they see in the media, which is probably half the truth, but they don’t think it’s half the truth Truth is,” Irvin said.

Dr. Irvin says the counseling center on South’s campus handles more than 300 students per semester, but they feel they can reach more.

Now that telehealth has become an option, Irvin believes they can do just that.

“We saw some of our numbers go up because it gave students a sense of anonymity, and so they weren’t worried about walking through the door and who might see them. They can be anywhere and just log into a platform and we can serve them,” Irvin said.

As Alana’s friends prepare to say their final goodbyes, there is one thing they will always remember.

Miller’s last request asked people to vocalize their feelings and check your friends.

“At the end of the day, you have no idea what people go through behind closed doors,” Miller said.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 800-273-8255. For resources available at Southern University click here, and for LSU click here.

Southern University officials are planning a second memorial in Miller’s honor at the beginning of the fall 2022 semester.

Copyright 2022 WAFB. All rights reserved.

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