By Mark Carruthers
It was just like any other Bank Holiday Monday. A family shopping trip was on the agenda for young footballer Matthew Smith and his family before returning home to watch a film and unwind.
But little did they know this particular day would change their lives forever.
Aged 10 at the time, Matthew settled in to watch the film as his mother, Shirley, went upstairs to speak to her oldest son 19-year-old Daniel.
A gut-wrenching, soul-breaking scream alerted the family that all was not well.
Dad Dean followed and his response was something similar to what had preceded, while Matthew followed his child instincts and went to investigate.
What was left stayed withMatthew and his entire family until this day.
“I knew something was wrong because of my parents reaction so I ran upstairs and I can remember what I saw, I can picture the scene now if I close my eyes,” Matthew explained.
Daniel had taken his own life, Dad asked me to get help and get an ambulance so I did that but I can picture everything about that moment. I was at Hartlepool United’s academy at the time and Daniel supported me in all of my football, he was always watching me. We were so close and he was the perfect older brother.
“We were so close as a family and there were no warning signs.
“We would have noticed but there was nothing, if there was we would have helped him.”
Matthew received support from team-mates and coaching staff at Hartlepool United and also from local authorities.
It was the underwhelming response from the latter, and the desire to create something special in the memory of their older brother, that led to the formation of the If U Care Share Foundation.
The foundation offers emotional and practical support with three key aims, the prevention, intervention and support after suicide.
The charity is now in its seventh year and has offered support to thousands of people around the country, including academy players at Football League and Premier League club.
“Because of my age I wanted to put on a front, to look as if I was okay,” explained Matthew, who spent last season with Ebac Northern League side Durham City.
“We didn’t want to live in our house because of what happened.
“I think I didn’t grieve until I was 20 and I think when I look back I was aware that my mood could impact on my mum and dad.
“I was busy caring about others and I was squashing my own emotions and not allowing myself to grieve.
“I developed Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and it started to impact on my football.
“We set up the Foundation to help people that went through what we did and to look to prevent other people taking their own lives.
“We have supported 2,000 people that have lost someone to suicide, we have worked with over 30,000 young people.”
Light was shining through in the darkest of times and Matthew teamed up with CALM to launch a change.org petition asking the Government to make suicide prevention and special bereavement support under ministerial responsibility.
The petition is now just under 1,000 signatures away from its 300,000 target.
Change is happening and IF U Care Share Foundation has also launched its award-winning Inside-Out campaign.
That will coincide with World Suicide Prevention Day, which this year will take place on Saturday September 10.
Progress is being made but suicide remains the biggest killer of young men in the UK. An average of 84 men die by suicide every week.
But there is hope, there is a way out and Matthew – who will spend this season with Wearside League Development club Durham United – believes his beloved older brother would be proud of what IF U Care Share is achieving.
“Dan would be proud of what we have done but the ironic thing is he would have been a fantastic support mechanism for people.
“Pride is a massive thing but I think he would see that we have proved that no matter how dark it is, no matter how much you are struggling, you can get through it.”
Twitter: @IFUCARESHARE Website:www.ifucareshare.co.uk