SPLIT IMAGE: MADISON HOLLERAN

Kate Fagan‘s story, Split Image, about Madison Holleran, who posted pictures on Instagram disguising a serious and eventually fatal stretch of depression, puts the subject of suicide front and centre, where it should be. It also calls out the possible and real consequences of people becoming obsessed with presenting a narrative that doesn’t reflect reality on social media.

It’s a tragic story but a must read because “even people you think are perfect are going through something difficult” and we all need to remind ourselves that “it’s OK to not be OK. It’s OK to show people you’re not OK.

Snippets of the article are published below; Read the full story on ESPN

THE LIFE MADISON projected on her own Instagram feed was filled with shots that seemed to confirm everyone’s expectations: Of course she was loving her first year of college. Of course she enjoyed running. Her mom remembers looking at a photo on her feed and saying, “Madison, you look like you’re so happy at this party.” “Mom,” Madison said. “It’s just a picture.” Everyone presents an edited version of life on social media. People share moments that reflect an ideal life, an ideal self. Hundreds of years ago, we sent letters by horseback, containing only what we wanted the recipient to read. Fifty years ago, we spoke via the telephone, sharing only the details that constructed the self we wanted reflected.

No image captures the paradoxes of Madison’s Instagram account more than the one she posted just an hour before jumping off the parking garage. Holiday lights are twinkling in the trees of Rittenhouse Square, and Madison put a filter on the image that produced an ethereal quality, almost as if the night is underwater.

Everyone now agrees that Madison was depressed, though she had never previously exhibited symptoms. (Depression exists on Jim’s side of the family.) Something had changed with her brain chemistry. She was not seeing the world in the same way she had before. She had lost weight too, had become so thin as to appear sick.

A week after Madison died, on Jan. 23, 2014, the family launched a Facebook page, “In Memory of Madison Holleran,” which has more than 52,000 likes. The site is dedicated to suicide prevention and ending the stigma attached to mental illness. Included on the page are stories of Madison, and stories from people struggling with depression, looking for a community.

“Sometimes we are all a little broken, but there is always someone to help, always someone who cares,” one post reads.

“Please seek help,” another reads. “You are not alone.”

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