20 January 2014

Remember Madison Holleran & help fight suicide, donate to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Madison Holleran
Over the past few days, I have struggled to deal with the shocking suicide of Madison Holleran. In case you do not know, Holleran, a 19-year-old freshman at the University of Pennsylvania, died on Friday evening after jumping off a Philadelphia parking garage. Her tragic death has devastated her hometown of Allendale, New Jersey, her former high school Northern Highlands Regional High School, and the Northern New Jersey athletics community.

I, also of Allendale and also of Northern Highlands, have been greatly bothered by these news ever since a friend texted me on Saturday morning that she had died. And the thing is, while I went to school with her sister for over ten years and my high school years overlapped with Madison's for two years, I did not really know her. I may not have ever really interacted with her. And yet, I have struggled to deal with this and have struggled to get it off my mind.

It has the feeling to me as an awful nightmare, you wish you can wake up and find out it was not real. But it is and that it happened to a woman like Holleran has made it even tougher to deal with. She was an athletic star, a brilliant runner and soccer player who will go down in history as one of the finest athletes ever to don the Highlander red and black, and good enough to earn a track scholarship to Penn. After all, how many athletes can say they helped lead a soccer team to back-to-back undefeated seasons as well as helping lead the track team to the Penn Relays? How about finishing on the all-state teams for soccer (twice) and track? How about winning The Record Spring Athlete of the Season and sharing Girls Indoor Track Athlete of the Year? You can go on and on (read the emotional pieces by the Record's Paul Schwartz and Darren Cooper for more).

But not only was Holleran a star athlete, she was known to be an intelligent kid (you don't get into an Ivy like Penn on just athletics alone) as well as a great person. Reading my Facebook news feed all day Saturday and Sunday and reading obituary after obituary from her friends and reading their stories of how wonderful of a person she was, how great of a person she was, and it's just so sad. How could this happen? How could a person seen in picture after picture brandishing a wonderful smile end take her life?

Her father, showing tremendous strength, told the New York Post that it was the stress that led to her taking her own life. He said she came out to her parents that she was having suicidal thoughts and thus began seeing a therapist. She had also discussed transferring, something both parents were open to, even saying to her father on the ride back to school a little more than a week ago that she did not want to go back. She had lost confidence in herself in both the classroom and on the track. After all, Ivy League schools are known for serious curricula, plus Holleran was triple-majoring in economics, philosophy and politics. He said that both the family and her knew she needed help, and on the day of her death he told her she needed to see the therapist, and she agreed.

But even then, I still cannot wrap my head around it.

He said he was sharing his story as a sort of cautionary tale for families should they find themselves in a similar situation. The family is also urging folks to donate to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention in lieu of sending flowers.

Suicide is devastating no matter who it happens to, and the amount of people it affects is great. According to the AFSP, a person commits suicide every 13.7 minutes. We need to do whatever we can to fight suicide and give people the resources to combat it. Far too often, people suffering from depression, high amounts of stress, or people going through all different kinds of hardships feel all too helpless and alone. As someone who has battled depression at times before, I know how hard it can be to beat.

Click here or here to donate to the AFSP. Do it for Madison Holleran. Do it for somebody you have lost or somebody you know that has lost someone. Let's fight to rid the world of suicide once and for all.

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