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How Social Media Can Hide Signs Of Trouble Among Student Athletes

05/29/2015 03:49 pm ET

Madison Holleran's online persona depicted the life of a thriving college freshman, filled with friends, family and a love for running track. But behind the social media facade, the student athlete was dealing with depression and suicidal thoughts. On Jan. 17, 2014, Holleran, a 19-year-old University of Pennsylvania student, leapt off a nine story parking garage in Philadelphia.

Holleran's story is not unique. According to ESPN, which dived into Holleran's life for its "Split Image" piece earlier this month, 35 student athletes took their own lives between 2004 and 2012.

Clinical psychologist Ramani Durvasula told HuffPost Live that social media profiles rarely paint a complete picture -- particularly because users rarely post about experiencing "distress" or "anxiety."

"People actually think that social media is actually a clear window into somebody's life. It's not," Durvasula said. "And so parents, especially parents who may be at a distance from their child, probably think everything's just great if they're literally going just on social media."

These expertly curated profiles have exacerbated the intense pressure to succeed that student athletes face both in the classroom and on the field, Durvasula added.

"It's actually quite unprecedented. ... We engage in social comparison, but they're sort of comparing these ideal selves. It's a contest to see whose ideal life is better than the other person's," the psychologist told host Alex Berg. "It's exhausting. I think young people are actually exhausting themselves in the process of trying to outdo each other in these lives they are living online."

Watch the full HuffPost Live conversation about the effects of social media and the pressure to succeed here.

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Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

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