Help for the Holidays: Finding the Light Out of the Darkness

Stories / November 14, 2016

Melle Richardson Council for Drug Free Youth Project Coordinator

Holidays are typically a time for friends and family to gather and celebrate, but for some, it can be a difficult time of year. Some families are divided by geography, leaving many people isolated and alone. Others feel overwhelmed with so many festivities and expectations. Busy schedules and dashboard dining have replaced the Norman Rockwell holiday setting of yesteryear. Instagram and Facebook posts saturate the Internet. Posts of photos of food and table decorations often take precedence over snapshots of loved ones spending time with each other. Good tidings for all may be the catchwords of the season, but that isn’t always the case. For some, the holidays have a much darker side.

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Take 19-year-old Madison Holleran for example. In 2014, she was an excellent student and actively involved in sports. While attending Penn State University, she tweeted, “This is the greatest place on earth.” Like many of her peers, she regularly posted pictures on Instagram. She created the impression that she was happy, popular and living an enviable life. Everyone believed her. Shortly after the holidays, Madison left gifts for her friends and family on top of a nine-story parking structure and jumped to her death.

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No one saw it coming.

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Or did they? Madison’s friends and family later said they felt like something was wrong and they tried to reach out to her. It has become far too common a practice to look at the pictures of people being happy instead of dealing with the reality that they might be depressed. Jim Holleran, Madison’s father, knows first-hand. “Depression can affect anyone, no matter how successful or well loved. Parents, if you see a huge change in your child and you haven’t discussed suicide with them, open that discussion up. It matters,” he said.

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This summer, Governor Jay Nixon signed a bill to enact suicide prevention and anti-bullying policies in Missouri state school districts. House Bill 1583 requires K-12 school districts to adopt suicide awareness training and policies by July 2018.

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The bill will also require universities and colleges to provide information about mental health resources to incoming students and educate them on recognizing the signs of suicidal behavior and depression. The Governor believes this is “an important piece of legislation that can improve and save lives.”

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Council for Drug Free Youth understands the importance of prevention education and has been providing peer-to-peer programs to schools in mid-Missouri for over thirty years. Safety Kids, Show-Me Players, and UPLIFT (Underage Prevention Leadership for Teens) are interactive, student led programs designed to educate younger students about alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, prescription drugs, bullying and suicide prevention. CDFY’s facilitated programs, COPE, TEAM and Baseline, focus on providing students with decision making and coping skills, team building, and prevention strategies. CDFY plans to partner with Compass Prevention and implement suicide prevention programs within the schools to fulfill the specifics of the mandate.


This year, the Jefferson City High School SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) group has decided to focus on Suicide Prevention. Senior Mason Pierce has been actively involved with Council for Drug Free Youth for the past several years and a member of UPLIFT. She is the 2016-17 JC SADD President and has made Suicide Prevention her top priority after she lost someone she cared deeply about to suicide and “never wanted another teenager or anyone to feel the same pain that my class and I felt.”

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This summer, while interning for Council for Drug Free Youth, Mason began researching the Out of the Darkness Community Walks to raise awareness. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention developed these walks in response to the need for opening up the discussion about suicide prevention and bring more awareness to the subject. They were named Out of the Darkness because they are typically held from sunset to sunrise, meaning people were literally walking out of darkness and into the light. JC SADD is hoping to host an Out of the Darkness Walk sometime in the Spring.

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According to the Center for Disease Control, on average one person dies by suicide every 8.5 hours in Missouri and it is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. Isn’t is time for us to stop scrolling through depression and start acknowledging it exists? Let’s make this holiday season a time to remember for all the right reasons!

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If you or someone you know is feeling hopeless, lonely, or depressed, don’t hesitate to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8522.

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The mission of Council for Drug Free Youth is to motivate, educate, and collaborate to help promote drug free lifestyles among youth in mid Missouri. For more information or to find out how to get involved, visit our website at www.jccdfy.org or find us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.
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This year, the Jefferson City High School SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) group has decided to focus on Suicide Prevention. Senior Mason Pierce has been actively involved with Council for Drug Free Youth for the past several years and a member of UPLIFT. She is the 2016-17 JC SADD President and has made Suicide Prevention her top priority after she lost someone she cared deeply about to suicide and “never wanted another teenager or anyone to feel the same pain that my class and I felt.”

HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH
This summer, while interning for Council for Drug Free Youth, Mason began researching the Out of the Darkness Community Walks to raise awareness. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention developed these walks in response to the need for opening up the discussion about suicide prevention and bring more awareness to the subject. They were named Out of the Darkness because they are typically held from sunset to sunrise, meaning people were literally walking out of darkness and into the light. JC SADD is hoping to host an Out of the Darkness Walk sometime in the Spring.

HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH
According to the Center for Disease Control, on average one person dies by suicide every 8.5 hours in Missouri and it is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. Isn’t is time for us to stop scrolling through depression and start acknowledging it exists? Let’s make this holiday season a time to remember for all the right reasons!

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If you or someone you know is feeling hopeless, lonely, or depressed, don’t hesitate to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8522.

Helpful Websites:
www.jccdfy.org

http://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

https://afsp.org/chapter/afsp-greater-mid-missouri/

http://www.sprc.org/states/missouri

www.take5tosavelives.org

Story by By Melle Richardson, Council for Drug Free Youth

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November 14, 2016