University of Pennsylvania freshman Madison Holleran’s suicide on Jan. 16 garnered the attention of national – and international – media outlets in the past week. She was a talented track runner, a beautiful young Jersey girl, and a college student of Ivy League caliber. This left many asking what led Holleran to jump from a parking garage that Friday evening, with speculation laying blame on her stressful school environment.
Depression and other mental health issues can hit anyone for any reason. Rather than pick apart the factors that may have led to her death, we should focus on mental health on college campuses.
While we can’t eliminate all factors, we can create an environment encouraging open discussion and allowing students to seek help.
At the University of Miami, we have resources available – the Counseling Center, suicide prevention organization Lifeguards and the Canes Care for Canes online reporting system. The resources exist, but not enough is said about them. Students are introduced to them during orientation, but the information is largely forgotten.
Talking about depression and visiting the Counseling Center need to be normalized. That starts with open conversation, and ends with implementing programs in which students can actively participate.
Online discussion on the “UMiami Secrets” Facebook page has helped stimulate dialogue and compassion. Students respond to posts about depression and suicidal thoughts, offering the anonymous posters a chance to talk by Facebook message. This is the type of community that must be created, but we must be as inviting on campus as we are online.
Similarly, therapists at the Counseling Center can, and should, act as a sounding board for students wanting to talk about troubling issues – be it a relationship, the big move from home or post-grad anxieties – before the situation escalates. Much can be said about talking things out, no matter how trivial the matter may seem.
Discussing mental health on campus and talking to someone are important steps, but changes can’t occur without unified efforts. Resident assistants should be trained to address mental health issues. Additional staff is needed at the Counseling Center to avoid long waits for appointments. And tangible programs, like the upcoming mindfulness initiatives promoting mental clarity, must be put in place.
UM should pursue avenues to improve the culture of mental health on campus. After all, if we can have a task force for football busing concerns, there’s no reason why we can’t form one that addresses mental health, too.
Editorials represent the majority view of The Miami Hurricane editorial board.