“Never be a prisoner to the fears and thoughts of the mind and while life is tough, never be afraid to reach out for help of any kind or for any reason.”
That’s the advice of a Wexford farmer who made three attempts to take his own life and who is now striving to help others who are affected by mental health issues.
“Suicide is not a singular action that affects only one person. It affects families and communities for a never-ending length of time. It’s better to be judged by 12 rather than carried in a coffin by six,” said beef farmer Mattie White.
I have walked the road of hell that is struggling with mental health issues because I could not admit that I needed to sort out things and that’s the hardest pill ever to swallow. Self acceptance is vital – you need to face your fears and issues.
“That’s the first step; the second one is seeking help. People need to be proactive in offering help and in asking others if they are OK. I would never have let on that I was suffering any mental health issues but yet I went through hell behind closed doors.
“The third step is to talk out whatever is going on in your life and mind and your fears. It can take a long road but I can guarantee that you can do it,” said Mattie, who is active on social media and who has just published a book of poetry.
People, he said, need to be aware that suicide doesn’t just happen between 9:00am and 5:00pm. It can affect anyone at any time.
Time to speak out
“People say the system is broken but we are all part of the system so only we can fix it. We are losing too many of Ireland’s sons and daughters. The time has come to stand up and speak out about mental health,” Mattie said.
It was 2014 when he first went about taking his own life. Having taken over his parents’ farm in 2003, he had been very busy carrying out a lot of work.
“I was constantly going and didn’t have time to think about things. Around 2012/2013, I ended up in financial bother with the banks. I was looking for the restructuring of a loan over five years and the bank wasn’t forthcoming.
“I decided to sell 25ac on the outfarm and thought that would solve all my problems. The land was sold in April 2014 but things weren’t great in my head,” said Mattie, who recalled that depression had been in the family down through the years.
I was very concerned about how my parents were going to take the sale of the land. I felt I was letting them down but the auctioneer told me that my father had told him that he would rather see the land sold than visit my grave.
“I’m the sort of person who can’t sit still. I have to be doing something and my mind is constantly racing. I started overthinking things. My wife intervened on the first occasion, speaking two words: ‘Your daughter’ and that was the kick in the ass I needed at the time.”
After contemplating suicide on two further occasions, Mattie turned a corner after joining a farm discussion group, having already tried counselling. “Even though I wasn’t directly talking about my problems, I was talking and realised there was something going on that I needed to address.”
He would like to see more mental health speakers visit schools and more acceptance of mental health difficulties. “Every person’s mental health is as individual as their fingerprints. Yet we are trying to treat mental health with a one size fits all approach”.
Mattie said he has had many a conversation and late night call with farmers about their fears and thoughts of suicide. “There is a lot of isolation in the farming community and the closure of the marts took away the social aspect for many.
“Lockdown has been detrimental for many people but anyone considering suicide needs to think of the ripple effect, of how others will be affected. There is always a way back from problems.”
‘Through A Farmer’s Eyes’, a collection of poetry by Mattie White is available from Red Books, St. Peter’s Square, Wexford town, or online for worldwide postage. Proceeds from the sale of the books will go to My Lovely Horse Rescue and Wexford Marine Watch.