Former track cycling world champion Kelly Catlin suffered a concussion months before her suicide, and had already attempted to end her life earlier this year, her family has said.
Christine Catlin, sister to the 23-year-old who took her life on Thursday night, has said that Kelly first tried to commit suicide in January following a number of bad crashes.
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In October, she crashed and broke her arm, then she crashed in December and sustained a concussion.
Speaking to the Washington Post, her father Mark said: “After her concussion, she started embracing nihilism. Life was meaningless. There was no purpose. This was a person with depression. For her, she could no longer concentrate on her studies or train as hard.”
Christine – one of three triplets including Kelly and brother Colin – said: “She couldn’t train as well as she used to.”
“She had really bad headaches and was sensitive to light. Then she tried to commit suicide in January.
“She had written this lengthy email [to her family] and said her thoughts were racing all the time. She was suicidal, her thinking was really dark and she had taken to nihilism. We called police the moment we got the email, and they got there in time to save her that time.”
“The thing that haunts me is that she called me about a week and a half before and we talked for like 2.5 hours and she opened up to me about her whole life,” Christine said.
Kelly was then found dead by her room mate at their on-campus residence at Stanford University in California, where she was studying for a graduate degree in computational and mathematical engineering.
The three-time team pursuit world champion and Olympic silver medallist had written an article for VeloNews in February about the stresses of combining her grad school studies and pro racing.
In it, she said: “It’s like juggling with knives, but I really am dropping a lot of them. It’s just that most of them hit the floor and not me.”
Concussion has been linked with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. A form of dementia, symptoms of CTE include changes in mood, such as frequent mood swings, depression, and feelings of anxiety, frustration or agitation.
Difficulty thinking and increased confusion and disorientation are other symptoms.
CTE can only be diagnosed after death and has been found in former American football players.
Mark said that her death was due to a “perfect storm” of depression, concussion symptoms, overtraining, “not being able to say no” – plus a rapid heart rate that kept her from being able to train.
Catlin had three world titles to her name, gaining them in the team pursuit in 2016, 2017 and 2018. Her Olympic silver medal came from the 2016 games in Rio, in the same event. On the road, she raced for Rally UHC Cycling.
In the UK the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. Other international suicide helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org.