Police: Lobo Flowers’ death was a suicide

(Editor’s note:  This story has been corrected to report that UNM athletic director Eddie Nuñez requested financial support for mental health for athletes from the state legislature and it was vetoed.)

The cause of death of University of New Mexico 21-year-old defensive lineman Nahje Flowers was determined to be suicide, according to an Albuquerque Police Department report.

Flowers, a redshirt junior for the Lobos, was found dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head in his off-campus residence on the morning of Nov. 5, the police report said.

Depression was listed as a past and recent health complaint for Flowers’ medical history, according to the police report. Flowers said in a group text message early in the morning of Nov. 5 that the antidepressants he was taking were not helping him, according to the police report.

When asked earlier this week if the mental health services available for UNM student-athletes has been adequate, UNM football coach Bob Davie said only, “everybody did their best,”and declined to comment further.

Vickie Gilmore, Flowers’ mother, declined to be interviewed when reached on Friday.

UNM athletic director Eddie Nuñez has asked for more financial support for mental health in athletics, but it was vetoed in the last legislative session. Nuñez also had expressed at a recent Associated Students of UNM Senate meeting the importance of mental health for athletics and for the campus.

Nuñez issued a statement on Friday:

“Too many universities, too many athletic departments, and too many parents in America have had to face the harsh realities we faced at the University of New Mexico this week with the loss of one of our student-athletes,” Nuñez said. “Responding to the personal challenges of student-athletes on and off the fields and arenas of play require us all to become more aware, more prepared, and more supportive. We must find the ways and means to do so.”

UNM athletics secured increased support from UNM Health Sciences Center shortly after Nuñez became athletic director two years ago, he said.

Teton Saltes, an offensive lineman for the Lobos, said he wants to help improve mental health services at UNM. Saltes has been involved with suicide prevention and awareness on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and other Indian reservations within South Dakota.

From a nationwide standpoint, Saltes added, “Mental health support within athletics is terrible. Some other programs can disguise it well, especially when you’re winning. But mental health within athletes is just something that they need to pay significantly more attention to. We need more resources. We need more people who care.

“There are steps that we need to take. There are so many things that we need to do differently to help these kids, because we truly need it.”

The Lobos were scheduled to host Air Force on Nov. 9, but shortly after Flowers’ death, UNM, Air Force and the Mountain West Conference arranged to reschedule the game for Nov. 23 at Dreamstyle Stadium.

UNM plays Saturday night at No. 19 Boise State in league play.

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