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Think Local

Driving back to their Manly Vale home from a scouts meeting in the Sutherland Shire with husband of almost three years Matt, Anita Leggett glanced at their two year-old son. William, asleep in his car-seat.

  “She smiled, knowing they would all soon be tucked up in bed and sleeping as soundly. But as they got closer to their home in Manly Vale, Malt became agitated and emotional and they started to argue.  

   “Although the couple didn't have any major financial worries, they were living with Anita's parents to try and save to get on the property ladder and during a conversation about it two nights earlier, Matt had lashed out at Anita, in an uncharacteristic show of frustration.

    In the car Anita tried to remain calm and as soon as they arrived home carried William to bed, hitting the sack shortly after.

   She realised Matt wasn't at home and when she went to call him realised her phone was missing. After a sleepless night, Anita dropped William off at day care and planned to track both Matt and her phone down once she got into work.

   Shortly after she arrived there was a message from William's day care saying he'd been picked up by an ambulance as they could not contact Anita and he had a fever. Concerned, she went straight home.

On arrival Anita was met by her parents, the police and the paramedics who gave her the devastating news that Man was dead. He had taken his life at the family's business workplace the previous night. He was just 26.

    “It was completely out of the blue and has left us all so very shocked," says Anita, who now finds herself a widow at 24.

   “He was kind active, patient and hardworking and loved to play with William in the pool. He never showed any signs of depression or anxiety. Towards the end of his life he was a bit stressed about money, but nothing that set off alarm bells.”

   Computer records show Matt had done a depression quiz in the last 24 hour hours before he took his life, but was also looking at the AFL Richmond v Tigers fixture for that weekend.

     "I think he had a psychotic moment,” adds Anita, and that was it. The paramedic said, 'suicide is like a cake - you've got to add all the ingredients and when it boils to the top... pop.'

     “It must have just all added up like a pressure cooker - the financial stresses of Irving In Sydney and keeping up with the bills, working full-time, having no leisure activities because the weekends are spent catching up.

“This is the reality for a lot of people, and I never thought I'd be the one telling this story.”

    Heartbreakingly, during a recent visit to Warringah Mall, little William spotted a man who looked like Matthew from the back, and ran after him.

   “I really struggled to hold it together,” says Anita. “Another thing that triggers it is when he looks at cars, as Matthew had a White Hilux. So he looks at every white car and asks. 'Daddy?'”

    Anita says she feels like she's, “on a rollercoaster, experiencing a different emotion each minute, sometimes angry, but mostly, “really, really sad.I’ll look around and see something that reminds me of him or shake my head and think, 'how could you have done this?'"

   The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) shows suicide rates in Australia are at their highest in 13 years - 12 per 100,000 people.It's the leading cause of death for men under the age of 44, significantly exceeding the national road toll, and of the 2864 lives lost to suicide in 2014, 2160 were men.

    "The ABS figures are alarming and indicative of the financial and social pressures people are finding Increasingly difficult to navigate," says Lifeline Northern Beaches A/CEO, Mr David Thomas.

   “At a local level, we're experiencing higher take-up rates for face-to-face counselling and support group services. However, while we are currently able to provide positive, life changing support and services to individuals and families living In crisis on our Northern Beaches, our resources are stretched."

    Lifeline Northern Beaches is appealing to residents, businesses schools and sporting clubs for financial and other assistance so it can continue and expand the services in light of the recent suicide rate increase.

   "We have appealed for increased Government funding." adds Mr Thomas, "but we have found in the past it's our community supporters who have enabled us to really impact positively at the grassroots level."

   "Our Northern Beaches team are also happy to come and speak to our community about the services we provide and how we can all work together. We want to encourage help- seeking behaviour and contribute to building and maintaining a healthy, positive and resilient Northern Beaches community across the social spectrum.”

    Construction workers are six times more likely to die from suicide than through a workplace accident, and the rate is soaring in those aged 15-24, with one committing suicide every two days.

      Lifeline CEO, Peter Shmigel claims, “isolation and loneliness plays a fundamental part.” But in Matthew's case, he wasn't isolated or lonely. It just appears he, like so many others, lost his way and in a moment of madness failed to see the Incredible value of his life.

“Matthew never showed any signs of being suicidal,” adds his devastated widow, Anita, who says she's extremely grateful for how the community, including Scouts Australia and William's day care, Manly Vale Early Learning Services - who also organised a 'Wear Blue for Matthew Day’ - have rallied around.

   “But looking back it he had only spoken up to his family, friends, doctor or called a helpline this could have potentially avoided. If I can help one other family, If maybe they realise their husband, wife son or daughter are struggling to cope and reach out to them, then somehow none of this was in vain.”

    When planning Matthew's funeral friends and family suggested they wanted to donate to a trust fund for William. Anita says the generosity has been astounding, adding, “At least that’s one thing I hope William will never have to deal with, financial stress.”

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