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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