Madison Holleran, a 19-year-old varsity athlete at the University of Pennsylvania, jumped to her death in Philadelphia last January in an act that shocked her family and community. Now her parents have released her suicide note and gifts that she left her family, hoping that it will help shed light on the facts behind teenage suicide.
Jim and Stacy Holleran, Madison’s parents, started The Madison Holleran Foundation to help high school seniors and college freshman who are dealing with depression or suicidal thoughts. They visit schools, giving seminars and speeches about Madison and how depression alters thinking.
Madison had dealt with depression throughout her first semester at college and told her parents that she had suicidal thoughts but was seeking therapy. Stacy explained: “That weekend she told me she needed to talk to somebody, because she was having suicidal thoughts. I was shocked. She’s never been depressed before. I knew she needed a therapist, but I couldn’t get her an appointment because it was the weekend.”
Her parents had even found a draft of her suicide note in her dorm room at the end of the semester.
While she seemed to be happier over winter break, Madison returned to school in January and committed suicide a few weeks later. Only hours before she jumped from a parking garage, Jim had texted Madison reminding her to ask the therapist for anti-depressants.
Andrew Wilcox saw her jump as he was running down the street. He notified the police.
“I kept thinking: ‘This poor girl. What was she going through? Her family must be devastated,’” Wilcox said. He later ran a marathon to raise money for suicide prevention.
Madison jumped with a suicide note and gifts for several family members. She was also carrying a photo of herself and a copy of “Reconstructing Amelia,” a story about an overachieving girl who eventually commits suicide.
Her note read, in part: “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.”
Jim explained: “I don’t think she realized how awful it would be for us to not have her around. Parents, if you see a huge change in your child and you haven’t discussed suicide with them, open that discussion up.”
He added: “And if that person would understand what they are doing to their family and their friends and their extended friends, they would not choose suicide if they really understood that they would be gone forever. They would not make that choice, but they are not thinking in their right mind.”
In an interview with NorthJersey.com, Jim said: “The thing I am still shocked about is that every 13 or 14 seconds in the United States, someone will take their own life. I can’t fathom that.”
Bob Beckworth, a family friend of the Holleran’s, remembered Holleran as a blessed child who seemed to have no problems. He said: “This kid didn’t have a boyfriend. There were no drug issues. There were no mental health issues in her background. It was just the last two, three weeks where they saw a change in her.
Something snapped. She got a 3.5 her first semester, and I think just the high expectations that she put on herself was that that’s just not acceptable.”
While Jim does not deny that the pressure may have gotten to Madison, he does not blame UPenn for her suicide. However, he is doing his best to persuade parents with teenage children to have open discussions about suicide. At her funeral he said: “Please seek therapy if you need it. This is not a weakness, but a struggle.”
Jim closed the funeral with the prayer, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Sources: Daily Mail