Kelly Catlin, a 23-year-old racing cyclist and Olympic silver medalist who was getting her master’s degree in computational and mathematician engineering at Stanford University, took her own life last week.
Her father, Mark Catlin, confirmed her death to VeloNews, a cycling publication.
“There isn’t a minute that goes by that we don’t think of her and think of the wonderful life she could have lived,” Mark Catlin wrote in a letter to VeloNews. “There isn’t a second in which we wouldn’t freely give our lives in exchange for hers. The hurt is unbelievable.”
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USA Cycling called Catlin’s death an “immense" and "devastating" loss.
Catlin wrote a column just last month for VeloNews in which she described the struggle of being both a graduate student and a world-class cyclist. She wrote that she had just started learning "slowly and painfully" the lesson of asking for help "when you need it."
"As athletes, we are all socially programmed to be stoic with our pain, to bear our burdens and not complain, even when such stoicism reaches the point of stupidity and those burdens begin to damage us," she wrote. "These are hard habits to break."
The Olympian's death at age 23, as she appeared to be at the top of her game both physically and mentally, has put an important spotlight on suicide and its sobering statistics.
Suicide is one of the 10 leading causes of death in the U.S. Suicide rates have been on the rise in the U.S. since 2006. Among women, the suicide rate increased by a staggering 50 percent between 2000 and 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Talking about suicide, and about mental health more broadly, can make all the difference in raising awareness and helping to prevent it, experts say.
Here are warning signs for suicide, as well as steps people can take to spread awareness and potentially save lives.
Where is help available?
If you are having suicidal thoughts, call someone, anyone: a friend, neighbor, family member, religious figure, hospital, doctor, mental health specialist, the police department or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
It is important to remember you are not alone and people do want to help you, regardless of what you think.
Who is at risk for suicide?
The strongest risk factor for suicide is a previous attempt at suicide, according to the American Psychiatric Association.
Nearly nine percent of young people in grades nine through 12 reported that they had made at least one suicide attempt in the past 12 months, according to data compiled by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP).
Suicide is often linked to mental disorders, particularly depression and alcohol use disorders.
Certain events and circumstances may increase risk for suicide, such as having a psychiatric illness including, but not limited to depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and anxiety disorders.
While depression is a contributory factor for most suicides, it does not need to be present for a suicide to be attempted or completed, according to the AFSP.
Other risk factors for suicide include chronic physical illnesses, family history of suicide, history of exposure to trauma or abuse, recent losses or life stressors, military service, feelings of hopelessness and impulsivity, misuse of alcohol and drugs and access to lethal means such as firearms, experts say.
Suicide risk also increases with age.
What warning signs should family and friends look for?
Significant changes in behavior are major warning signs that a person, especially one with depression, may be slipping closer to suicide, Dr. Dan Reidenberg, executive director of Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE), told "GMA" last year.
If someone with depression is acting out of character, it is time to ask more questions, and get others involved and take action, he explained.
Other changes in behavior that may be red flags are withdrawal from family, friends, work and social activities, a change in activity level, increased anxiety, restlessness or agitation, and a lack of sleep.
"Look and listen for warning signs because it is not as if just one morning someone wakes up and says, 'Today is the day I’m going to do this,'" Reidenberg said. "It happens over time and falls on a continuum."
How can you help a suicidal person?
The most important thing loved ones can do is to be available, experts say.
Being available can mean being there to listen, without judgment, and to check in continually to say something as simple as, "'Hi, how are you doing? I'm available and around,'" explained Reidenberg.
"Reassure them that they are important to you, you want them to be around and want them to be well," he said. "The reassurance that people care by statements and words mean a lot to someone who emotionally is drained from the depression."
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Being willing to move past the stigma of speaking about depression and ask the person direct questions is also important.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline offers five steps to help someone who may be considering suicide.
1. Ask: There is a common misconception that asking someone if they have or if they are considering killing themselves puts the idea in their head -- it does not. Do not be afraid to ask!
2. Keep them safe: If someone admits to considering suicide, it is important to seek immediate medical attention, especially if they shared their plan with you or have access to firearms.
3. Be there: Listen without judgment and with empathy. Let them know they have a shoulder to lean on when they need.
4. Help them connect: Help them find a support system to reach out to. Support is very important for someone battling the idea of suicide. Those who have attempted to harm themselves are often at risk of another attempt at suicide.
5. Follow up: Following up could mean preventing thoughts of suicide or another attempt.
If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741-741. You can reach Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860 (U.S.) or 877-330-6366 (Canada) and The Trevor Project at 866-488-7386.