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Southern University still mourning after cheerleader dies by suicide, sparks conversation of mental health

Friends and family mourn the loss of Southern freshman cheerleader Arlana Miller.
Friends and family mourn the loss of Southern freshman cheerleader Arlana Miller.(Friends of Arlana Miller's family)
Published: May. 12, 2022 at 10:41 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - The Southern University family is still mourning after unexpectedly losing one of its own.

Arlana Miller was a cheerleader at Southern and died by suicide last week. Miller was just days away from completing her freshman year. Miller’s former teammates held a balloon release 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 somebody you would never guess,” MyKayla Reid said.

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

Her passing has since sparked conversations around mental health and the resources that are available for students.

“She would always check up on me asking me if I’m ok, and I think that’s why I feel a little guilty is because I wish I would’ve done that more for her,” Reid said.

Medical professionals at Southern say a lot of young adults today are facing similar issues.

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

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

“Especially among young women I work with, the comparison they 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,” Irvin said.

Dr. Irvin says the counseling center on Southern’s campus treats more than 300 students a semester, but they feel they can reach more.

Now that telehealth has become an option, Irvin feels they can make that happen.

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

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

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

“At the end of the day you have no idea what people are going 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 honor of Miller at the start of the Fall 2022 semester.

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