Kate Fagan - Uncovering Madison Holleran's Private Struggle in "What Made Maddy Run"

August 3, 2017 - Kate Fagan 08/03/2017 Views: 16,315

Kate Fagan unpacks University of Pennsylvania runner Madison Holleran's suicide and explains how social media and college sports affect mental health in "What Made Maddy Run." (5:47)

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Kate Fagan.

(cheering and applause)

-Welcome to the show.-It's good to be here.

Thank you very muchfor being here,

and thank youfor sharing your story.

I mean, this is a book

that was based off an articlethat you wrote.

-And, just to give itsome context, -Yeah.

you were, yourself,a college athlete,

and you realizedthat college life is not as fun

as I guess it seems likein American Pie movies.


And you wrote storiesabout that.

Like, what was itfrom your story that made you

want to do more researchand write about these?

Yeah, well, when I played hoopsat the University of Colorado,

I tried to quitmy freshman year,

and I had a ton of anxietyaround it.

It wasn't reallysomething I'd processed

until I read the headlinesabout Maddy's story.

And I dug deeper into her story,and I was like,

"There's a lotI can relate to here."

And that's what made me wantto even pursue it further.

Right. You-you readMaddy's story, and, I mean,

it's honestly oneof the most heartbreaking tales

I've ever readbecause on the surface,

Maddy had it made.

She was in college,she was doing well,

she was a staron the track team.

And then it seemslike it was going wrong.

There was no one incident.

Like, when you...when you dug through the story,

what did you find wasthe catalyst for how Maddy felt?

Well, what I found wasthat there was never going to be

-a one catalyst or a why.-Right.

It was more a lot of nuanced,

layered things that took place.

I mean, certainly the triggerwas going to college.

I mean, it was the firstbig transition in her life,

and, for a lot of young kids,that transition,

that first big transition

can be the triggerfor anxiety or depression

if it's somethingthat they might suffer from.

And certainlythat was the case with Maddy

when she got to UPenn.

All of a sudden, everythingthat had come so easily to her

started to be really hardfor her.

Do-do you think peoplecould do a better job

of preparing kids for college

and preparing them for the idea

that maybe they will hatethe next four years?

Yeah, I mean,in talking to Maddy's friends

and, like, all of their parentsand their community group,

one thing that they didn'ttalk enough about,

in retrospect, was, like...Hey, I know we all say,

like, this is gonna be the bestfour years of your life.

But parents need to doa little bit better a job

of saying, "You might struggle.

"Like, this isa big transition for you.

"You're not gonna beat home anymore.

"You're gonna have new friends.

"There's gonna benew challenges.

"This is something that might...

"You might find you thinkit's gonna be awesome,

"but if you're struggling,please talk to us.

-Know that that's okaythat you're struggling." -Right.

When you... when you lookat Maddy's story,

I mean, we speak about itin the past tense,

because, unfortunately,she's no longer here.

Maddy committed suicide.

And it came as a shockto many people,

mostly because the veneeron the outside of her life

was so perfect.

Do you find thatthere would have been a sign?

Is there a waythat anyone could have known

just by looking at the worldand the life she was living?

Yeah, I mean, mostof her friends were surprised.

I mean,those closest to her knew

that she was trying to get help.

You know, her parents andher sister and her brother knew,

"Something's not rightat college

and we need to try and fix it."

But social media, certainly,

when you lookat Madison's Instagram feed--

I mean, it's still live--

you see that her projectionof her college experience

-was actually the perfectcollege experience. -Uh-huh.

And... But she would talkabout, with her friends

and with her parents, like,

"I think my friends are havingan amazing time at college."

Even though she knew whatshe was projecting wasn't real,

she still absorbedother people's Instagram feeds

and social media feedsas if it was a pure reflection

-of what they were goingthrough. -Th-That's something

I found gripping and universal.

It's a sad story.

Maddy's story was uniquein that she's a track star,

and, you know, many peoplemay not be able to relate

to, you know, beingon a top team in college.

Some people may not even relateto the story of college.

But the aspect of social media

and living your lifeon the outside

-is one that I think all of uscan relate to. -Mm-hmm.

Instagram lifestyle--are you having a good time

or are you appearingto have a good time?

Do you think that, in some ways,

that adds to the-the stressthat young people feel,

having to put upor keep up with...

I guess nowit's the Kardashians--

-used to be the Joneses?-Yeah. Oh... (chuckles)

I mean, absolutely. That...Like, that's a huge part of it.

And it's not just how muchour young people--

high school, college-age kids--are absorbing

of other people's social media,

it's alsothe communication style now.

Maddy, when I wentthrough her iMessages--

'cause her family were-were...they were gracious enough

to pass, uh,her iMessages along--

she was populating all of thoseiMessages with, like, emojis.

Even if she was tryingto convey something like,

-"I don't like it here,"there would be an emoji, -Wow.

like a monkey covering eyesor something.

So even if what she saidwas serious,

the emojikind of softened everything.

-And so it was tough via text,-Right.

not just social media,to be able to say

from that far away, like,"Oh, something's wrong."

Uh, if there's one piece of hopeyou would want people

to take away from this book--because it is a sad story

in many ways, uh, but there areglimmers of hope in the story--

what would be the one thingyou'd hope

-people would take away from it?-I mean, like,

there's so many placesdoing awesome work,

like the Madison HolleranFoundation.

There's an organization,To Write Love On Her Arms.

There are a lot of places thatwant to have this conversation.

And Maddy and the endingto Maddy's story is avoidable.

Like, you-you can get treatment,

you can get help,and you can live.

And I think if we talk enoughabout the catalysts

and the nuanceand the layer of this

and why this happenedand the reasons,

I think we can avoid moreof the outcomes like Maddy's.

Well, then we'll keep talking.Thank you so much

-for being on the show. I reallyappreciate it. -Thanks, Trevor.

What Made Maddy Run is available now.

It's a fascinating story.Kate Fagan, everybody.

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