Home Pop Culture Why was Madison Holleran ashamed to admit mental illness?

Why was Madison Holleran ashamed to admit mental illness?

Madison Holleran
What stopped Madison Holleran from coming to terms with her mental illness?

As the community comes to terms with the untimely death of Madison Holleran questions are being raised as to why the beleaguered teen declined to seek redress for her mental illness.

A much admired track and field star as well as an Ivy league freshman at University of Penn, the teen had everything to live for except she had increasingly found it difficult to adjust as her grades began slipping and the pressure of retaining her perfect poise and persona became too insurmountable to maintain.

Yet the more Madison Holleran was forced to come to terms with less than stellar first semester grades at Penn and the pressure of maintaining her athletic prowess the more the young woman would find herself tormented and consumed with mental torture.

Yet what remains of concern is why Madison Holleran was not encouraged to deal with her demons, her mental torture, her mental illness and seek the redress that she needed?

Contemplates philly: My hope, though, is that as the initial shock of Holleran’s suicide recedes, all who knew and loved her will find the strength to speak publicly and candidly about her passing. Doing so may help destigmatize mental illness among those who are suffering from depression but are reluctant to seek help.

Maybe, they’ll think, if someone as bright, promising and focused as Holleran fought the demons of despair, perhaps despair is nothing to be ashamed of but something to be treated as nonjudgmentally as we treat other maladies.

The more that point is hammered home – in the press, in the classroom, around the kitchen table, on national TV – the greater the chance of putting a dent in this country’s appallingly high suicide rate.

As much as Madison Holleran came to succumb to her mental illness we ought to ask ourselves as a society why we still refuse to recognize mental illness and insist the ever unbridled image of success, vigor, the impossible, the air brushed, the impenetrable and the infinite? Is that to say one is not allowed to fail, come second best? Or is there a more ominous attitude towards young women that they are expected to behave, be, look like and excel in a certain matter lest they be perceived less than desirable and worthy of our admiration?

Reflected one college student Amanda Hallock, a college softmore: ‘I don’t think that it’s the school’s fault,’ citing the ‘lack of mental health conversation’ in the United States.

‘I think there’s a big belief that it’s all in your head,’

‘[There is] victim-blaming on the person who has depression.’

Continues philly: In 2010 alone – the latest year for which statistics are available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – 38,364 Americans died by suicide. That’s more than double the 16,259 who died by homicide that year. In Philadelphia, there were 329 homicides and 168 suicides in 2012, the latest year for which suicide statistics are available. Yet the homicide rate is the only rate we track with interest.

Ought we not we in the media take interest in such matters, promote discussion of the pressures youth, men, women are so often saddled with in attempting to live the American dream of ‘we can have it all, just don’t let anyone see the hurt.’

To the credit of Madison Holleran’s family, they have had the courage to acknowledge that indeed their daughter was quite ill and in need of treatment and yet in the end with all their love and support weren’t able to stop their daughter from feeling compelled to take her life.

Yet perhaps by stigmatizing suicide, mental disease, perhaps we ought to talk about it and come clean. Sometimes it’s difficult to make things work the way we would like. Sometimes it’s difficult to accept second best. Sometimes it’s difficult to accept our frailty, our vulnerability but perhaps then again the only way we can overcome such challenges and prod forward is to acknowledge the rigors of life, the inconsistencies of life and to accept that we cannot always be superwomen or supermen. Sometimes accepting we are not perfect makes us more perfect…

above image found here

Madison Holleran suicide note: ‘I was locked in.’

Madison Holleran funeral. Was she on anti depressants?

Madison Holleran death: Is her school to blame?

Why did Madison Holleran kill herself? Too perfect?

Madison Holleran father: ‘My daughter needed help.’

Why did Madison Holleran commit suicide?



  1. Just because she was battling depression and/or anxiety doesn’t mean she was “mentally ill.” Virtually everyone at SOME time in their life will battle depression at least once, that’s not the definition of “mentally ill.” Less than stellar performance??? She had a 3.5 gpa, maybe in her eyes not good enough but pretty “stellar” even by Penn standards, I don’t think she was “ashamed” of anything – she was young and naive and just snapped and did an irrational irreversible decision. Why are you dragging this poor girl’s name through the mud? Jesus, have some respect for her and her family and let her rest in peace.

  2. I would like to know if this lovely girl was on medications…I can almost guarantee she was. I only hope and pray the family comes out and says if she was and what it was. It just does not add up, too many drugs are being prescribed and causing the exact thing they are supposed to prevent.

  3. I think you make many good points Zach. What happened to Madison happens to many young people starting out in college. My daughter had a similar experience to you. The anxieties of that first year led to depression which led to a suicide attempt. Luckily I found her in time and she has spent the last two years trying to learn how to deal with all that has happened and her diagnosis. This story has touched me as well and I pray Madison is at peace and that her family will find the strength for each day. I pray u r well too, Zach .

  4. Even though we probably will never know..

    Looking back at all of
    her social networking pages you can clearly see a degrade in attitude
    and how she felt about life. It seems to be over a span of several
    months or years of never feeling good enough. When you feel this way,
    peoples comments don’t matter and you never take them seriously.
    Although, it was still very subtle. Always trying to be positive but the
    small things got to her easily. Taking the big steps coming out of high
    school I think scared her the most. Which would scare anyone. While at
    home, she had options to revert back to, at which was comforting.
    Family, friends, etc. She was open and happy to be going to such a
    gorgeous school. She was obviously extremely anxious though. I think the
    anxiety exploded out of proportion once she started. I don’t think she
    expected it to be as difficult as it was. Working her ass off first
    semester was physically and mentally draining. Only ended up with a 3.5
    gpa. Which is amazing at that school but to her it wasn’t good enough. Degraded her confidence. At the same time, she has track beating her
    into the ground. So she probably realized “Wow I’m running for a huge
    school. I have to do well.” When she didn’t.. she was probably cursing
    herself. On the social networking pages she went back to what her high
    school was up to ever since she left. And always wishing to be with her
    dad or family. Always overly excited when family came to visit or when
    she went home. She was homesick. At this point it seems she was in
    despair. Christmas break was fine but once school came back around I think the
    anxiety came back in full force. When she finally had to go back January
    11th she mentioned to her dad that she didn’t really want to go. But
    went back anyway. I think it was the mixture of being scared, having no
    one to talk to about it, and being homesick.
    Seeing a therapist doesn’t help. For one, you’re talking about your
    personal issues with a stranger. Second, it looks like you’re crazy or
    sick. I went through this debilitating anxiety when I started college.
    Just the thought about it scared the shit out of me. I would skip class
    intentionally just because I was so scared. Then I was handed the
    consequences which just made me depressed and at a loss for what to do.
    At which, I was still skipping class and lying to my peers/family.
    Unlike Madison, it led me to a path of alcohol/weed which helped curb
    the anxiety. Anything to lift myself up. I didn’t leave school because I
    couldn’t bring myself to tell my own dad that I didn’t want to go back.
    The worst is that you know you’re wasting all this money for nothing. I
    felt guilty. I hated everything about it. I hated the professors,
    classes, people. Everyone. Just because I was scared. Everyone that
    asked how I was doing at school got the same response “doing awesome!”.
    Plus all my close friends from high school were gone. I had no one to
    reach out to. But I eventually got the balls to say something. I finally
    let it all out and I broke down. I couldn’t handle it. I cant say that I
    have never thought about suicide at that point in my life because I
    know I have. I decided to leave for good and never return. I still have
    the sense of guilt. I know probably none of this can be related to
    Madison but in my eyes it does. I know my theory could be completely
    wrong as well. Especially since I am only going by interviews and
    twitter/instagram. But that just seems to be the sense I am getting from
    all of it. I feel as if she ended it the way she did because she knew
    it would never stop. Which in a way is true. If she had the anxiety like
    I did.. no school change can that. She knew if she left, she would have
    to start all over again. I don’t think she saw leaving school and going
    home as an option either. Because how would that look? What would she
    do if she just stayed home? Our society is bred to believe college is
    the only path to success and happiness. It seems she didn’t want to face
    the disappointment of everyone around her. So she ended it. Its a shame
    that she didn’t express the seriousness to her parents or friends. This
    seems more of a story of anxiety/pressure/stress (Fight or flight
    response) leading to a bout of depression. When I finally admitted to it, it felt
    like a weight being lifted. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do but I
    still felt a lot better. Realizing all this, It becomes clear why that
    was her only option. Even though I didn’t know her, this story hit me so
    hard. Ive been thinking about it everyday. Its almost like I lost a
    family member or friend of my own. I feel Madison’s grief as well as her
    family’s. Taking it one day at a time. Madison, you touched the hearts
    of many people around the country. I hope, where ever you are, you can
    see that. I pray that you are at rest and feeling better. With anyone
    feeling this way.. I hope you open up and get the help you need.

  5. Any many, many people who commit suicide are just having a rough time, and have absolutely no mental illness. We try to find a way of rationalizing suicide, finding a reason for it. Many times it is an impulsive act by a relatively sane person who just snaps. I think we are so quick to diagnose people as “bipolar” or “schizophrenic” when in reality they are quite normal people with natural and normal emotions. What they are lacking is coping skills.

  6. I think that you are making too many assumptions. Madison finished her 1st semester at UPenn with a 3.5 GPA. Difficult to call a 3.5 GPA less then stellar. Madison Holleran surely had suicidal ideation. Most people with suicidal ideation who actually commit suicide have a major untreated psychiatric disorder not just limited to depression. You have to consider bi-polar disorder and early adult onset schizophrenia. I don’t think she was inhibited by stigma. I think she was incapable of helping herself. She was, historically, a very successful young woman and that also helped to disguise the severity of symptoms. Very tragic event.

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