The life of a promising young track star from the University of Pennsylvania triggered an outpour of grief from her family and the entire Penn community. Madison Holleran, a 19-year-old freshman, committed suicide the evening on January 17 after being unhappy in school.
Despite the grief of losing his daughter, James Holleran chose to "remain strong for Madison" and urged anyone who is unhappy or thinking suicidal thoughts seek treatment immediately. "Please seek therapy if you need it," urged Mr. Holleran. "This is not a weakness, but a struggle."
He will be taking his own advice, as he and his family will be receiving professional therapy to cope with their loss. "I had to be strong today and I felt strong," said Mr. Holleran after the funeral. "I asked God to help me and Madison to help me."
Mr. Holleran does not blame the school for the academic overload his daughter felt, and was willing to transfer her to another school to make her happy. "She was getting therapy. I think she was depressed, maybe clinically depressed. She had hidden it so well," Mr. Holleran told NJ.com.
The funeral for the New Jersey native was held at the Guardian Angel Church in her hometown of Allendale, New Jersey on Tuesday, January 21. More than 600 friends and family members attended the service in the cold, snowy morning.
Holleran was described as a "high-achiever ultimately couldn't cope with the expectations she'd set herself" and her unhappiness leads her to see a psychiatrist. During the Christmas break, Holleran expressed her displeasure to her family, who suggested they transfer her to another school and take therapy to alleviate her stress.
"We knew she needed help. She knew she needed help," said her father James. "She had lost confidence in academics and she also lost confidence in her track abilities."
The day of her suicide probed no apparent signs or warnings, said family friend Bob Weckworth. Holleran posted a final image on her Instagram of the campus just an hour before taking her own life. She did leave a suicide note as well as gifts on the roof where she leapt to her death.
UPenn released a statement following the tragedy: "The entire Penn community is deeply saddened by the death of Madison Holleran. She was bright and well-liked with an incredible future ahead of her. There are simply no words that can properly convey the sense of heartache that we all feel at such a tragic loss."
Madison Holleran is survived by her parents and four siblings. An additional to her father's eulogy, her older sister Ashley also remembered her younger sister as a "mentor" who she would forever miss. "I only wish I could have flown up to her at UPenn and helped her."