After posting a heartbreaking message to social media, Arlana Miller, a 19-year-old freshman at Southern University and A&M College in Louisiana passed away this week. Screenshots of Miller’s troubling Instagram post, which was quickly taken down following the tragic news, appeared to show the young teen expressing frustration about the struggles she endured over the last year, from contracting COVID-19 to “failing all” of her classes.
News reports indicate she was an agriculture major and was a member of the HBCU’s cheerleading team. In a statement, Southern University’s athletic department said that Miller passed away shortly after posting the tragic letter on Thursday.
“On May 4, 2022, at approximately 9 PM, Southern University Athletic Department was notified of a social media post which ultimately led to this unfortunate announcement,” the statement read.
Counseling will be available to students on campus. According to the school, students can reach counselors at 225-771-2480 or email at email@example.com. The 24/7 CRISIS partner can be reached at 225-368-9602.
Noting that May is Mental Health Awareness Month, the athletic department said this was “a time to raise awareness of mental or behavioral health issues and help reduce the stigma so many experiences.” In a proclamation officially recognizing the month, the White House pointed to the disparities in mental health treatment, with many Americans never getting treatment.
The pandemic has taken an emotional toll on teens and young adults. According to a scientific brief published by the World Health Organization in March, during the first year of the pandemic, cases of anxiety and depression skyrocketed by 25 percent, putting young Americans disproportionally at risk of suicidal and self-harming behaviors. The data suggests that the mental health crisis may have been exacerbated due to severe disruptions in mental health care services at the height of the pandemic, leaving a wide gap open for individuals in need of care.
“For much of the pandemic, services for mental, neurological and substance use conditions were the most disrupted among all essential health services reported,” the WHO reported. Some of those disruptions drastically affected life-saving services for suicide prevention.
A 2021 survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that nearly 63 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds had symptoms of anxiety and depression during the pandemic, with 25 percent of respondents reporting that they had considered suicide last year. The survey found that another 25 percent reported increased substance use to deal with the stress and anxiety brought on by the pandemic.
If you or a loved one are struggling with depression and thoughts of suicide, please contact The Black Emotional and Mental Health Collective for more help and emotional support. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text HOME to 741741, or visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.