Hope Squad Brings Best-Selling Author

Hope Squad Brings Best-Selling Author to Mason to Show Full Picture of Achievement Culture
Posted on 02/28/2020
On Instagram, 19-year-old Madison Holleran seemed to have it all: a track-and-field athlete at the University of Pennsylvania, a beautiful and gifted student, well-loved by friends and family. But on Jan. 17, 2014, after purchasing gifts for her family at the Penn bookstore, Holleran ended her life.    

In her book, What Made Maddy Run, sports writer and ESPN commentator Kate Fagan recounts Holleran’s story and explores the struggles with mental illness many young people experience today. On February 27, Fagan shared with a packed crowd in Mason High School's Auditorium what she’d learned about some of the cultural, technological and mental health causes for teen and young adults' increasing suicide rates.

"Achievement and success do not equal happiness. Things aren’t always as they seem. There's a challenge of living in a world filled with comparison and pursuit of more... more success..better grades...improved athletic performance - it's a mythical perfection. Take time to find and do what you love," said Fagan. 

Fagan's visit was a result of efforts from Mason High School's Hope Squad - a peer-to-peer suicide prevention group. The students of Hope Squad felt strongly that Fagan’s messages would resonate with the student body as they work to raise mental health awareness and reduce the stigma that surrounds those conversations. 

"There's an important misconception that talking about suicide will make it happen. It won't. Talk and talk some more with your child. If you notice something isn't right, keep asking questions," said Fagan.

Over the past few years, Mason High School students have increasingly expressed concerns about the negative impact of achievement-driven culture on students’ mental health. Two years ago, the high school launched Hope Squad - a mental health awareness and peer-to-peer suicide prevention group. This year, the district established a new mental wellness team that includes four new mental wellness staffers, and partnerships with outside agencies for additional support for students and families. Students and staff strongly believe that community awareness of teens’ mental health issues is imperative, and the MHS Hope Squad has worked to create a community event where national author, Kate Fagan, will share ways to recognize signs of students at risk, and to reduce stigma around having conversations about mental health.

Students within the district have shared that they experience heavy amounts of stress and pressure, and sometimes find it challenging to reach out for help when needed. Through her experiences competing as a collegiate athlete and writing What Made Maddy Run, Fagan provided valuable insight on the transition to college, the effects of digital communication, and the lack of conversation about mental health and suicide.
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