By Jenny A. Casiano, BlackDoctor.org
Family, friends, and classmates of Southern University are in shock and mourning the loss of beautiful 19-year-old cheerleader Arlana Miller. She died by suicide after leaving a telling social media post.
In what was to become her final Instagram post, Miller spoke about death and detailed her history with suicidal thoughts
“May this day bring me rest and peace. I have fought this urge since my early teenage years… I gave this life all the fight I had. To everyone who has entered my life I’m so grateful and I can only imagine how this may find you, I have been surrounded by people who may have honestly thought that I was okay, but I havn’t been okay for a while,” the note read.
Her note also referenced her struggle over the past year with her school, Covid-19 and tearing her ACL ligament.
“I struggled so much through just this year alone. From covid, to tearing my acl, to nearly failing all of my classes. To the people in my life I pray you learn to vocalize your feelings and get help always!!! I failed at that and I’m afraid it’s too late,” Miller wrote.
“I have written so many suicide notes my life but finally, I’ve reached my end,” she said.
“I hope this teaches everyone to check on your ‘strong’ friends, be present always! I’m contradicting myself but NEVER give up!!! I know that I’m letting a lot people down by what I’m about to do. But… truth is I’ve already let down so many people throughout my life and it just feels unbearable. I’ve lost my connection to God.”
“I’ve been dead inside for too long. To everyone I love, just remember that this is not your fault and I pray you don’t find guilt in my situation. I always dreamed of becoming so many things that I am today, but they just aren’t enough, I’m not enough. I haven’t felt enough for a while.. but I say all this to say, I’m done fighting, My battle is over and I pray everyone finds peace in that.”
The university’s athletic department said she died shortly after making the final posting. They have since posted something recently to offer help to anyone else who may be facing mental health challenges or thoughts of suicide.
“May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a time to raise awareness of mental or behavioral health issues and to help reduce the stigma so many experience,” Southern University’s post honoring Miller explained.
Arlana mother, who now runs her social media account, is rightfully heartbroken.
“R.I.P To My Daughter Arlana Miller 💔🕊 As A Mother This Is Hurting Me Soo Much Maybe I Should Of Check On My Daughter Mental Health I Feel Like Everything My Fault … I love you & miss you so much baby girl. My heart is in pieces,” her mom posted.
Miller’s suicide comes on the heels of other suicide deaths of young successful people in the past 12-18 months including Miss USA Cheslie Kryst (30), actress Regina King’s son Ian Alexander (26), and Miss Alabama Zoe Sozo Bethel (27).
Why are Suicide Rates Going Up?
Prior to the pandemic, suicide deaths were increasing dramatically for Black adults in the U.S. The rates have continued to increase during the pandemic.
African Americans are as likely to experience mental illness as other Americans but more likely to get poor or no treatment. Black women in particular are often left out of research studies and hesitant to obtain mental health care. There are many reasons for that, including racism, mental health stigma, and the history of providers using information against them. They may also have difficulty finding therapists who are Black or culturally competent.
“The ‘strong black woman concept’ (implies that) we’re able to handle all things and so sometimes clinicians—who may not be culturally competent—may also [believe that stereotype],” said Mia Moore Kirby, an assistant professor in social work and the Center for African American Studies at the University of Texas at Arlington. “That’s not validating a person’s experience, not empathizing with what’s going on, and maybe minimizing their symptoms.” Some organizations and programs across the U.S. are working to destigmatize therapy and make culturally competent care more accessible to Black women.
“Over the last decade, suicide rates in the United States have increased dramatically among racial and ethnic minorities, and Black Americans in particular. Suicide deaths occuracross the lifespan and have increased for Black youth, but the highest rate of death is among Black Americans aged 25-34 years of age.” said researcher and professor of psychology and director of the University of Houston’s Culture, Risk and Resilience Lab, Dr. Reeda Walker. She believes one way to stem the trend is to continue bringing these conversations into the public arena.
“Suicide is a preventable public health problem and it’s time we get proactive in addressing it,” said Walker.
What Can Be Done?
1. Talk with someone. If there’s no one in your circle that you can feel like you can talk to, then call a hotline and speak to someone who is will willing to listen. Call 800-273-8255 or visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org
2. Prioritize and fund new programs to build evidence for effective approaches that reduce suicide in Black and other communities of color. The first step in making suicide prevention more equitable is to partner with local, state, and national organizations already working with communities of color. Collaboration can help you design suicide prevention materials that are linguistically and culturally competent and build prevention efforts most likely to reduce suicide in those communities.
3. Remember, there’s always hope. There are resources on BlackDoctor.org to help you find a mental health specialist in your area that may be able to help as well. We’re here for you.