(TRENTON) – Building on an existing New Jersey law that honors the memory of a college freshman who tragically took her own life in January 2014, the Assembly Higher Education Committee on Monday approved legislation to bolster suicide prevention programs on college campuses.
Allendale native Madison Holleran, a 19-year-old star athlete at the University of Pennsylvania, took her own life during her second semester of college. According to her family and friends, Madison had not exhibited outward signs of depression before she started college.
In 2016, New Jersey enacted the Madison Holleran Suicide Prevention Act, which ensures colleges and universities have mental health professionals available on campus or remotely by phone 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to assist students in crisis.
The bill advanced by the committee (A-2293) amends the Madison Holleran Act to require mental health experts on campus to work with and annually train faculty and resident assistants to recognize signs of depression, as well as warning signs and risk factors of suicide. Staff and resident assistants would be trained to refer students to crisis hotlines and mental health screenings. Colleges would also develop mental health crisis assessment and response plans to be used by staff and resident assistants to identify, assess and respond to a student in crisis.
Additionally, higher education institutions would annually conduct a mental health public awareness campaign on campus to provide students with information on depression and suicide, raise awareness for available mental health services and reduce the stigma associated with seeking help.
The measure’s sponsors, Assemblywoman Mila Jasey (D-Essex, Morris), chair of the Higher Education Committee, James Kennedy (D-Union, Middlesex, Somerset) and Bill Moen (D-Camden, Gloucester) released the following joint statement:
“Suicide is preventable. We can never fully erase the pain of the countless families who have lost their children to suicide, but we can do everything in our power to help those in crisis and spare families unimaginable loss.
“Madison’s story should remind us how quiet despair can be. It is our hope that increasing staff and peer training and reducing the stigma around mental health will help reach more students suffering in silence. If just one life is saved, it will have been worth it.”
Help is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week by calling the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-8255.