University City was shocked over the holiday weekend with news that University of Pennsylvania freshman Madison Holleran committed suicide Jan. 17 by jumping from the roof of a Center City parking garage. What made it especially hard to believe was that Holleran was a very successful student and had a strong social support system. In addition to having the academic talent that got her accepted into Penn, she was on the university’s track team and was recognized statewide in New Jersey for her excellence in high school track and soccer. Her father was well aware that Holleran’s stress was becoming a problem in the past few months, and she had received counseling. The warning signs were seen and acted upon, but this tragedy still happened.
At times like these it is important to remember not to let the pressure of being a perfect student dictate your life. Remember that it is okay to make a mistake or receive a not-so-decent grade once in a while. One grade on one assignment does not define you as a person, even if it seems so at times. If anything, we learn more from our failures and mistakes than we do our successes. School may be your number one priority, but be sure to make time for a healthy social life and maintain your personal health. Try your best to remain on a steady sleep schedule, eat healthy meals and exercise; doing so can make you feel better both mentally and physically.
When you do feel the pressure start to bother you, be proactive before it builds to an unmanageable level. Taking a small break and going for a walk between assignments can do wonders to manage stress and anxiety levels on a daily basis. Doing something that makes you happy is also a great way to improve your mood and relax, whether it be listening to music, grabbing coffee with a friend or watching a quick YouTube video. Your workload may seem too large for you to afford a break, but doing so will give your mind a rest, allowing you to start fresh and be more focused.
Sometimes the world feels so big and we feel so small, as if there is no one to whom we can turn, but that is not true. If you feel worried about your stress level or your anxiety, talk to your friends, family or teachers. Believe it or not, everyone has been under intense pressure at one point in their life. Those around you can help you get through a tough time. If you don’t think talking to those around you is enough, seek professional help. As many universities do, Drexel offers myriad resources for students in need.
It’s heartbreaking that so many of us — maybe all of us — know someone who has taken his or her own life. On one hand, we want to talk about these tough issues so that anybody who might be having suicidal thoughts no longer feels isolated and alone. Additionally, discussion can provide constructive ideas about how to get help for similar issues. On the other hand, we must be careful to avoid exploiting the situation or the deceased, keeping in mind that someone who has been contemplating suicide might be led to believe it is a viable option for solving their issues.
Holleran’s death is a sad reminder that life is short and must never be taken for granted. Taking your own life is never a solution, no matter how insurmountable your problems may seem. If you feel overwhelmed, please seek assistance and do not be afraid to ask for help if someone you know is in need. Everyone gets pushed to their breaking point at some point, especially college students, which means your friends and classmates understand. Never be ashamed to talk to your peers. It could save a life.
Students struggling with depression, suicidal thoughts and other issues can call Drexel’s Counseling Center at 215-895-1415 during business hours or 215-416-3337 any other time.