ABOVE: Texas native Arlana Miller (19) was a cheerleader at Southern University and A&M College
“I’ve been dead inside for too long.”
This expression of despair is one of the many lines extracted from a heart-wrenching Instagram message posted by 19-year-old Southern University cheerleader Arlana Miller on May 4th.
The beautiful young college freshman spoke about her prior struggles with thoughts of suicide and her feelings of inadequacy, before acting on those feelings by taking her own life.
After making the post, reports state that authorities found Arlana’s lifeless body in the Mississippi River, having carried out the act she stated that she had contemplated so many times during her teenage years.
There is a lot to unpack in Arlana’s final Instagram post.
Arlana talked about how the COVID-19 pandemic, tearing her ACL, and nearly failing all her classes contributed to the internal challenges and pressure she faced.
In seeking to further understand the struggles and internal challenges she faced that may have led to her final decision, Arlana wrote:
“I have written so many suicide notes in my life but finally, I’ve reached my end.”
In her Instagram post, Arlana spoke about the suicidal thoughts she had as a young person and the many times she fought against those urges.
“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 haven’t been okay for a while. I struggled so much through just this year alone.”
In a precursor to what she was about to do, Arlana spoke directly to her mother, thanking her and seeking to give her mother peace of mind for the decision she was making.
“MOM, THANK YOU SO MUCH, I pray you know I’m at rest now! You would’ve given anything to see me happy, you have given everything to see me happy. I’m happy in the water where everything is still and peaceful. I have written so many suicide notes in my life but finally, I’ve reached my end.”
The hopelessness and finality to which Arlana speaks about her life and her feelings of inadequacy are hard to ignore, as she declares:
“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.”
Arlana even speaks about her spiritual detachment from God and how that impacted her, stating:
“I’ve lost my connection to God. The devil seems to have won & that is okay, I blame no one for this!”
As part of her final message to the world, Arlana also took the time to challenge those in her life to express themselves, differently than what she felt she had done.
“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,” Arlana wrote.
Arlana continued her challenge by saying:
“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 of 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.”
Arlana then goes on to try and comfort her family and friends by letting them know they aren’t responsible for her decision and that they shouldn’t feel any guilt, but she also spoke about how she tried to please others without thinking about herself first. Arlana wrote:
“I thank everyone for all they’ve done & IM SORRY IM SO SO SORRY. But thinking about how everyone else would feel about my death is not enough either, I’ve tried to please and make everyone else happy my entire life.”
As if to indicate that there was possibly one person, her grandfather, that could have changed her mind and helped her make a different decision about committing suicide, Arlana wrote:
“To my grandad… I wish you were here to tell me I’m being stupid, to tell me it’s not worth it, but you’ve left me & found your own peace. I’ve always been stubborn and prideful just like you.”
The first statement delivered by Arlana was “May this day bring me rest and peace,” and although that is what she may have hoped, her decision to commit suicide has delivered the exact opposite reaction from so many of her family and friends, especially her mother, who posted on her daughter’s Instagram account:
“R.I.P To My Daughter Arlana Miller ?? As A Mother This Is Hurting Me Soo Much. Maybe I Should Have Checked On My Daughter’s Mental Health. I Feel Like Everything is My Fault … I love you & miss you so much baby girl. My heart is in pieces.”
When things like this occur, it brings about a numbness and a feeling of helplessness, with questions swirling in your head, wondering what could have been done to prevent it.
The bottom line is this: Mental illness is real!
You may not be able to see it, but it is real.
It affects the moods and actions of people impacted by it. No one requested to have this illness, just like a person didn’t ask to contract the COVID-19 virus, or cancer, or any other illness.
People who struggle with mental illness must be treated the same way we treat any other person struggling with an illness, especially one that can be life-threatening as mental illness can prove to be.
Telling someone who is depressed or contemplating suicide that because you care about them, they shouldn’t think or feel that way, is like telling someone who is suffering from asthma that they need to breathe because there is oxygen around them.
We must come to understand that some things are not just that easy, especially if it involves something like mental illness that can’t just be treated with a universal drug or treatment.
The rate of suicide-related deaths was increasing at a high rate among Black youth and Black adults here in the United States well before the COVID-19 pandemic and has gone to an even higher level of increase since the pandemic invaded our country.
Sadly, Black Americans experience mental illness just like any other racial group in America, but the difference is Blacks are more likely to get inferior, inadequate, or simply no treatment at all. This includes Black women, who are usually not included in research studies. Many Black people are also unwilling to seek mental health assistance, primarily because of the stigma surrounding mental health, the lack of qualified Black therapists that they are accessible to, or other issues of mistrust that Black people historically have with the medical industry.
Stories like that of Arlana Miller are heart breaking and emotionally disturbing, but we must do something to address this ever-increasing pandemic of its own, called suicide.
Think about it! Have you heard anyone in your family or any of your closest friends utter any of the words that Arlana shared in her final Instagram post?
We must be cognizant of the signs and do as Arlana challenged her followers to do…Check on your “strong” friends and be present always.
As we stated, the Forward Times is dedicating the month of May by highlighting the importance of mental health as part of Mental Health Awareness Month.
When we talk about mental health it encompasses many things, such as our psychological, emotional, and social well-being, in addition to how we deal with the daily rigors of the world around us. The way we handle stress, handle relationships, and handle the choices we are faced with, can be directly tied to our mental health status.