By Kyra Campos-Marquetti
The parents of Madison Holleran have released to the public their late nineteen-year-old daughter’s suicide note.
They connected with People magazine in hopes of raising awareness of the struggles college freshmen face. Releasing the note, which is in the magazine’s February 2, 2015 issue, was done to help prevent suicides and help families communicate with their youth who are feeling depressed or suicidal.
If you are not familiar with the Allendale, NJ college freshman, Madison Holleran attended Northern Highlands High School and was a graduate of the 2013 class. She excelled there not only in academics, but also in athletics.
Holleran was a member of Northern Highlands’ ‘12 and ‘13 undefeated soccer team and also a part of the school’s track team. She succeeded in becoming one of the top athletes in the state, including the NJ State Champion in the 800 meter run in 2013. Shortly after, the track star signed and committed to the University of Pennsylvania, where she ran for one of the top track programs in the United States.
What once began as an exciting new beginning and the first year away from home, slowly spiraled into a year of stress-induced turmoil.
The pressures of the Ivy League school left Holleran feeling strained and over-extended. Holleran was known to be a perfectionist and was having difficulty adjusting to the workload she received at UPenn. By December, she was feeling depressed and suicidal, and began seeing a therapist.
On January 17, 2014, Holleran took her own life in Philadelphia by jumping from the top of a parking garage.
Unfortunately, college suicides are not uncommon. There are more than 1,000 suicides on college campuses per year, making it the second leading cause of death for college students.
Although sharing the suicide note may have been a painful reminder of their daughter’s passing, the Holleran family released it in hopes of showing what some college freshmen experience. The note she left on the roof of the parking garage was accompanied by gifts she left for her loved ones:
“I thought how unpleasant it is to be locked out, and I thought how it is worse perhaps to be locked in. For you mom … the necklaces … For you, Nana & Papa … Gingersnaps (always reminds me of you) … For you Ingrid … The Happiness Project. And Dad … the Godiva chocolate truffles. I love you all … I’m sorry. I love you.”
A draft of her note was later found in her dorm:
“I don’t know who I am anymore. trying. trying. trying. I’m sorry. I love you … sorry again … sorry again … sorry again … How did this happen?”
It is through these heartbreaking notes that we can see the pain the 19-year-old experienced. Sadly, she is not the first to feel this way.
The transition from high school to college can be a complicated, difficult and stressful time for teenagers. According to a study done by Loyola University of Chicago, it has been reported that as many as one-third of college freshmen are “frequently overwhelmed by all they have to do.” In a similar investigation of undergraduate students, it was noted that “44.3% of the subjects reported experiencing emotional difficulties that directly affected their academic performance.”
Many teenagers in general face depression and suicide as well:
- About 11 percent of adolescents have a depressive disorder by age 18 according to the National Comorbidity Survey-Adolescent Supplement (NCS-A)
- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in five teenagers in the U.S. seriously considers suicide annually, and approximately 1,700 die by suicide each year
- For youth between the ages of 10 and 24, suicide is the third leading cause of death
Jim Holleran, Madison’s father, was quoted by People’s Nicole Egan saying, “Parents, if you see a huge change in your child and you haven’t discussed suicide with them, open that discussion up.”
Suicide and depression are such crucial, weighty topics that often get brushed aside. Most people are uncomfortable with the subject matter of suicide. Frequently, victims are blamed and shamed by their families while the stigma of mental illness is spewed upon them.
The understanding that depression is not something to be ashamed of has yet to be widely accepted. Depression is a legitimate illness that has both negative mental and physical effects, and needs to be taken seriously.
To help families open up these difficult conversations, the Holleran family launched the Madison Holleran Foundation. Their goal is to assist high school and college students who suffer from depression. The organization also aims 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” and to “break the silence and stigma that is associated with suicide.” In sharing their daughter’s story, they hope to help other families in similar situations.
Suicide is a serious issue and Madison Holleran is an example on how quickly it can escalate from a mere thought to the actual tragic action. Depression and suicide need to be spoken about more and should not be associated with the stigma of shame. Mental health is essential to survive and cannot be ignored or seen as insignificant. Depression is not a weakness, but a struggle that many have to fight.
To learn more about the Madison Holleran Foundation, visit http://www.madisonholleranfoundation.org/
If you or anyone you know is in a crisis or feeling suicidal, call the confidential National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Remember, it is perfectly okay to ask for help- asking for help is not a weakness. It can be one of the biggest strengths and is the first step to recovery.
You are not alone.