Bills to help prevent suicide at colleges approved

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Suicide-prevention legislation inspired by a New Jersey high school track star and Ivy League college student who took her own life was advanced Thursday by a state Senate committee.

The state Senate Higher Education Committee approved two bills named after Madison Holleran, a 19-year-old freshman at the University of Pennsylvania when she died in January 2014. The measure now goes to the Senate for its consideration.

The Madison Holleran Suicide Prevention Act would require higher education institutions to have a professional with mental health training available 24 hours a day, seven days a week; that person would focus on reducing student suicides.

The Madison Holleran Proper Reporting Act would require institutions to provide information online concerning the number of students who committed suicide or attempted suicide in the prior academic year.

Holleran's parents, Jim and Stacy Holleran, are supportive of the legislation and have established the Madison Holleran Foundation, which aims to help students who might be contemplating suicide or living with depression.

"We feel there's a real need there for students that might be feeling the same thing as Madison and not knowing where to go to get help," Jim Holleran said in a telephone interview.

Identical measures have been introduced in the Assembly.

Republican state Sen. Kevin O'Toole sponsored the legislation with the Hollerans' help.

"We can never fully know what Madison and her family have been through, and it's impossible to make sense of her tragedy, but through glimpses of her triumphs and tribulations shared by family and friends, we can make sure her tragedy will save others," O'Toole said.

Holleran was a 2013 graduate of Northern Highlands Regional High School and was that year's New Jersey state champion in the 800-meter track event, according to the foundation's website.
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