Madison Holleran’s Story

The past few days, this piece by ESPN titled Split Image has been going around the internet and being shared throughout social media. I read it on Friday while I was driving to Philadelphia. It took me a good 10-15 minutes to read, but it touched me and left me feeling…I’m not sure how to describe it.

The article captures Madison Holleran’s story. I had heard of her when everything initially happened. She was a star athlete at UPenn, who one day decided to jump off the 9th floor of a parking garage in Philadelphia. At the time, I couldn’t understand how that could happen. How someone who seemingly “had it all” could end their life. But after reading this piece, it makes more sense to me.

I can’t stop thinking about about Madison’s story. It is so tragic, and yet it happens every day. Apparently, suicide is the leading cause of death in young adults, aged 10-24. What really resonated with me is the fact that someone can look so happy on the surface, but be feeling something completely different inside. 

The article also discusses what role social media might have played. Madison felt like her friends were leading the perfect lives, when in reality they were struggling too, which they shared in this follow-up ESPN article, Life Unfiltered.

Is there an answer here? Probably not. People are more prone to share their highlights on social media, not the bad moments. And I’ve found that when someone does share the negatives, others are annoyed by it. I know someone who has posted status updates about feeling depressed or down with life, and then I hear from others, “Why would they post that, Facebook isn’t the place to air your dirty laundry.” So it’s somewhat of a catch-22. We can’t post the negatives, but in only posting the positives we are filtering our lives. The only social media platform I have found to be a place to discuss life in general has been Tumblr. What do you all think?

I can’t explain why I can’t stop thinking about this story. It makes me appreciate life, friends and family more. But it also opened my eyes. Everyone has a story, and someone might be fighting an internal battle you know nothing about. As someone who studied higher education and student affairs (my Master’s degree), it saddens me to think of that high suicide rate, and of the students who are struggling on college campuses.

If you’re a college student and are feeling this way, please go talk to an advisor, therapist or anyone you trust. I work on a college campus, and as a student affairs professional, I can say that we are always here to talk and listen. My boss, the Athletic Director, always makes time for her student-athletes when they come in and want to talk. Don’t be embarassed or anything like that. If you want to stay anonymous and are in a crisis, please call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to speak with a counselor. 

Perhaps that is why I can’t stop thinking about this. I work with students every day, I see them walking around campus, I coach them on my cross-country team…you just never know what is going on. 

I’m not really sure where I was going with this post, but I wanted to write something all weekend and get my thoughts out. If anything, I hope this ESPN article brings to light statistics regarding suicide and suicide prevention. Madison’s parents started The Madison Holleran Foundation. This is their mission statement:

The primary mission of the Madison Holleran Foundation is to prevent suicides and to assist those in a crisis situation with phone numbers and resources that will assist them during their time in crisis. We will also focus our efforts on preparing high school seniors and college freshmen, since this can be a very difficult transition period, as it was for Madison and many college freshmen.

Will increased discussion about mental health help make it less stigmatized? I guess only time will tell. But I do think things are heading in the right direction. 


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  1. You have no idea how much pain others are experiencing. They can seem perfect on the outside and it just masks their despair.

    My friend’s mother committed suicide a few years ago and the family is still reeling from it. We need to talk more about depression!
    Margo recently posted…Brooklyn Fit Chick News & Notes: @USATodayHealth, @suzannecbowen Giveaway Plus Book Vs Movie “The Stepford Wives”My Profile

  2. Such a sad story. I think about this a lot as I have 2 high school students. There is so much pressure and they can keep so much inside. We’ve had a few teen suicides in our town the last few years and it just breaks my heart. not sure what the answer is.
    Deborah @ Confessions of a Mother Runner recently posted…Tofu Scampi-Meatless MondayMy Profile

  3. I got a degree in Psychology before I went to nursing school and mental illness is such a tough battle. I feel for her family. And you are so right, everyone always posts the great things on social media and are viewed negatively if they are woe-is-me’ing. I have found that in the running community of social media though that more and more people are making it clear that things aren’t always rosy and perfect. I try to be as real as possible because things do suck sometimes, and I think it’s important to show that not all runs are good. That doesn’t get to the root of the problem of course that you are referring to, but I think we need to be aware and hopefully be able to pick up on warning signs of our friends and family. Unfortunately I don’t think the stigma will ever go away :(
    Sue @ This Mama Runs for Cupcakes recently posted…Weekly Update: WWII planes, kids runs and Mother’s epic weekend!My Profile

  4. I try to post the good and not-so-good things on my blog, but sometimes the not-so-good has to wait until I’ve processed it, because I prefer to present in a mostly coherent way.
    It’s all too easy to compare to others and forget that everyone is presenting some kind of edited view of their life online. I’m quite glad I didn’t have Facebook and Twitter and Instagram in high school, I likely would have been a complete mess.
    Ange @ Cowgirl Runs recently posted…Motivate Me Monday: 5/11My Profile

  5. This is so sad suicide is really sad. Everyone has a battle they are fighting it’s important to seek help and talk about what you feel. Keeping things bottled up makes them worse in my opinion
    Ivanna recently posted…How To Become A Certified Personal TrainerMy Profile

  6. What a sad story. As a high school teacher, I’m touched far too often by stories like Madison’s. Teenagers face a tremendous amount of pressure these days, both at school and at home.
    Kathryn @ Dancing to Running recently posted…Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon Training Log – Week 1My Profile

  7. Such a sad story. We really have no idea what others are dealing with. Even someone as close as right next door. We had a horrible incident where our teenage neighbor committed suicide several years ago- just so sad. :/
    AJ @ NutriFitMama recently posted…Strawberries & Cream Protein Smoothie {Gluten Free, Vegan, Soy Free}My Profile

  8. Very heartbreaking story. I have mixed feelings on the “filtering” with social media. There are parts of my life that I share and parts that I don’t. It’s not that I’m trying to present myself in a way that makes me look better, it’s just that some things are more personal (good or bad) and I prefer to keep some of those moments to a smaller group of friends and family rather than the entire internet! The issue is one of perception, though, and we never know who is seeing our social media feeds and how they are perceiving them.
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  9. There was a high school girl from my area, a star soccer player, who took her own life a few years ago. No one had a clue that she was hurting so badly on the inside. It hit everyone around here hard. This story reminded me of that girl.
    Wendy@Taking the Long Way Home recently posted…Sole foodMy Profile

  10. I’m so happy you shared your thoughts. I read this, as well and was saddened. Like you, I don’t know what the solution is. There are pros and cons to social media just like anything else. I don’t think it’s fair to blame it for what happened, but I do wish there was better education for young kids and young adults about comparing yourself to others, especially based off how we portray ourselves in social media.
    Nicole @ Fitful Focus recently posted…Double Chocolate Chip Protein Brownies {gluten free}My Profile

  11. i did hear about her and it’s truly sad. unfortunately, there hasn’t been any great response or moves in terms of discussing mental health in a positive way. there’s so much stigma and that’s awful.
    Courtney @ Eat Pray Run DC recently posted…How to Stay Balanced with GarnierMy Profile

  12. This is so very sad. Yet, I suspect cases like this are all around us. People suffering in silence. I wish I had an answer.
    Marcia recently posted…Weekend Rewind and a RecipeMy Profile

  13. So sad that mental health struggles are so looked down on and people don’t know how to get help. I’ve been to therapy twice for some personal struggles and it was so good. I like to reference it in passing to help normalize therapy and let people know there is nothing wrong with seeking help!
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  14. Conversations about mental illness are definitely a step in the right direction. Love this Patty!
    jill conyers recently posted…Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Ice CreamMy Profile

  15. So much sadness. I had a former student that committed suicide last year and it was such a tragic reminder of how important it is to have a support system in place.
    Elena recently posted…Find Your Wellness Lifestyle with Laughter and FriendshipMy Profile

  16. Such a sad story. Goes to show that we’re all really only seeing glimpses into people’s lives and never the full story.
    Carmy recently posted…Monday on the Run #22My Profile

  17. Depression is such a tough issue. I have dealt with my own dark places and it can be so hard to pull yourself out. You feel like there are no answers. This story saddens me about the pressures that are put on teens and kids today and also makes me worry as a mom. My heart goes out to Madison’s family. I can’t even imagine.
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  18. I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot lately as well. Even before I read this article. It’s actually made me question a lot about blogging, social media and these online personas we create for ourselves and how the can affect us and even others. It’s a scary thing to think about!
    GiselleR @ Diary of an ExSloth recently posted…Make the most of Limited Kitchen SpaceMy Profile

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