Warning: This story contains details relating to suicide that may be difficult for some readers.
Matthew Ravida remembers every moment of the day his brother died with vivid clarity.
It was a warm August day, just a few weeks before Matthew was due to start high school. The Ravida family was getting ready to leave for their summer vacation, his dad loading luggage into the car and his mom getting something to eat. Matthew’s older brother, Anthony, was nowhere to be seen.
“My dad went inside the house yelling for Anthony to get up,” says Matthew.
We both went into his room and he was there, not moving and not breathing. We called 911.
Anthony had died of a brain aneurysm. His sudden death at just 17 years old sent shockwaves through the Ravida family. Watching his parents struggle to cope with the loss of their child, Matthew resolved to be strong.
“I didn’t want to show any weakness,” he says. “Then I started high school, where I was met with a perfect storm of navigating a new school, puberty and emotional and physical changes while everyone around me walked on eggshells as I tried to be a rock for my family without giving myself any room to grieve.”
That December, the pressure caught up with him. Feeling he could no longer bear the pain, Matthew attempted to take his own life. It didn’t work, and his parents quickly discovered what he had done.
Matthew was admitted to St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton’s in-patient psychiatric program, where he stayed for over two months. He was the youngest patient there.
Before being discharged, Matthew’s care team told him about Kids Help Phone. The 24/7 service could really help him ease back into his regular life, and it would be available for him whenever he needed it between his outpatient appointments.
“I was skeptical at first, but I called,” he says. “It was hard re-adjusting to school and facing so many questions, and I needed somewhere to turn for help.”
After the first couple of calls, Matthew began regularly calling Kids Help Phone as he learned to work through his own grief and the gravity of his suicide attempt. For two months, he called every single week.
“They didn’t discriminate or judge me,” says Matthew. “They stuck with me and they helped me more than I can express.”
Now a young adult working at BMO, in 2019 Matthew came back into contact with Kids Help Phone after learning that his employer is the presenting sponsor of the Walk so Kids Can Talk fundraiser, a national 5K walk event that raises millions each year.
Matthew immediately signed up and raised $5,000 from his friends and family. Since then, he’s become a passionate ambassador and spokesperson for Kids Help Phone, speaking at events, doing media interviews and attending meetings. He’s hopeful that by openly sharing his story and refusing to feel ashamed, others who may be struggling with similar feelings will realize it’s okay to talk about it, and that help is out there.
“I hope someone out there may be able to relate to my story and gain the courage to share their own,” he says. “If they’re afraid to talk to someone in their own life, Kids Help Phone can be that lifeline to getting help.”
Together with his friend Dan Pelosini, Matthew Ravida hosts a podcast exploring issues of mental health. To listen, visit mindsweep.buzzsprout.com.