WARNING: This post deals with suicide. Some readers may find the article triggering.
Just a few months ago she was ‘the happiest girl on the planet’.
She had been accepted into an Ivy League University and her older sister was going to make her an Aunty.
But the picture painted of 19-year old Madison Holleran through social media is, as often the case an entirely different one to the reality.
The tragic facts reported by the US media are that the University student took her own life on Saturday evening.
The internet has gone into overdrive reporting on the popular teenager’s death. With her looks, her sporting achievements and even her suicide notes documented and speculated upon.
Her father, James, has spoken to the media in heartbreaking detail, talking of his anguish after his daughter took her own life.
He said she was ‘the happiest girl on the planet’ when she was accepted into the University of Pennsylvania.
A vivacious, intelligent athlete from New Jersey she seemed to be constantly surrounded by friends.
Her social media profiles show a vibrant popular confident teenager, with tweets delighting in becoming an Aunty and tweets proclaiming her love for her family and friends.
She had three sisters – ages 26, 20, and 16 – and a 15-year-old brother.
Madison had happily tweeted less than a month ago when her older sister gave birth to a baby boy.
“Best New Years gift ever … GONNA BE AN AUNT TODAY!!!! HAPPY NYE TO ALL!!!!!”
But as we all know social media profiles lie.
Inside Madison Holleran was a teenager struggling. She was overwhelmed by her Ivy League schoolwork and had lost confidence in her athletic ability.
Madison was in her freshman year at the University of Pennsylvania. She was majoring in politics, philosophy and economics.
Her father told the NY Post that his daughter found university life difficult.
“There was a lot more pressure in the classroom at Penn. She wasn’t normal happy Madison. Now she had worries and stress,”
Madison – the middle child of five – shared her suicidal thoughts with her parents in December and was seeing a therapist.
“We knew she needed help. She knew she needed help. She had lost confidence in academics and she also lost confidence in her track abilities,” he said.
Tragically it was only on Friday that he had urged Madison to make an appointment with a therapist who could prescribe her antidepressant medication.
“I was worried about her so I texted her that she needed to see the therapist. She said she would.”
Madison posted a bittersweet instagram pic just an hour before her death.
Her suicide has sparked online debate in the US with some saying that Madison’s death is only receiving coverage because she was ‘prom queen material.’
One poster to a blogging site wrote that had she been “a 240-pound, pimply-faced girl in the marching band at Penn State, she’d be just as dead right now, and no one except her parents and (few) friends would care. Certainly, her death wouldn’t have been profiled in such a long stream of articles, some of which have even found their way into national channels like Time Magazine’s web site.”
Others have disputed this point with a suicide prevention and awareness advocate Haley Rawks writing:
“Firstly, any awareness about suicide is good, because while the death is tragic, we as a society need to understand that the epidemic of suicide is real, that it happens to real people, and that we need to place a higher emphasis on dealing with it, rather than sweeping it under the rug. Yes, Ms. Holleran is an attractive young female athlete. Thank you for pointing that out. While you may think it’s unfair that her death is being discussed instead of someone whom you may consider to be less attractive, or possibly more inferior than her, I don’t see an issue. Suicide/mental illness do not discriminate … The reality is that anyone can die by suicide. The reality is that even when someone seems to “have it all”… So while this article is posted about a young, pretty, sociable, athletic college student, it proves as a reminder that mental health is a serious issue, for everyone, no matter their race, no matter their gender, no matter their age, no matter their social status. “
Her father told the NY Post that he was sharing the story of his daughter’s death as a cautionary tale for families that found themselves in a similar position.
If you or anyone you know needs help contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636.