A widow who lost her husband to suicide said he had an ‘unbelievable’ ability to cover up his true feelings as she urged anyone else who is worried about a loved one’s mental health to ‘seek help’.
Victoria Wright, 36, from Nottingham, founded mental health charity Riders Minds for equestrians with her late husband Matthew, after he had battled with mental health issues for several years.
But tragically, Matthew took his own life at the age of 38 in February 2021, after the pair had enjoyed a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner.
Speaking to FEMAIL two and a half years on from his death, Victoria recalled how Matthew’s mental health declined and she did her best to support him.
‘To the outside world, they would never have known,’ she said. ‘It was unbelievable really, the ability he had.’
Victoria Wright, 36, from Nottingham , founded Riders Minds – a mental health charity – with her late partner Matthew. The couple pictured with their three children
Victoria met Matthew when he was a competitive rider – who was ‘top of his game at the time’ and had represented GB on a senior level.
The talented athlete was ‘charming and cocky’ and would draw you in,’ she said – while she was ‘young and nowhere near his level’.
The pair eventually fell in love, married and had three children together.
Victoria said that while Matthew put on a brave face for other people, he was clearly dealing with insecurities and ‘just piled more pressure on himself’ as an athlete.
She admitted he would ‘only let her in’ when it came to being vulnerable, meaning Victoria was the only one who could see how much he was dealing with.
The mother-of-three described how he would be ‘in bits in the horse box’, but would act like everything was normal ‘the minute he took a step outside’, leaving her baffled as to how he could compartmentalise his anguish.
‘It was one of the hardest things to watch him put on a fake mask,’ she added.
Matthew concealed his true feelings and emotions despite being candid about going through mental health issues in the public eye.
Victoria met Matthew when he was a competitive rider – who was ‘top of his game at the time’ and had represented GB on a senior level. The couple pictured on their wedding day
Victoria said that while Matthew put on a brave face for other people, he was clearly dealing with insecurities and ‘just piled more pressure on himself’ as an athlete
The rider had regularly blogged about his struggles and insecurities online, creating a safe space for others to come forward and ask for guidance.
According to Horse & Hound, he had even been open about dealing with the anxiety and stress of overcoming his testicular cancer treatment.
But despite that, others wouldn’t have known just how much the father-of-three was going through.
And Victoria says that when it came to parenting, Matthew also hid his suffering from the children.
‘He was an amazing dad,’ she said. ‘There were times they noticed he was quieter but he really did keep that side private and swept it under the carpet.’
He was so skilled at masking his pain, that everyone was shocked when Matthew died.
‘It made no sense [to other people],’ Victoria recounted. ‘I felt like I had to explain myself.’
As well as grieving for her husband, Victoria noted the difficulty in talking to people about how he died, due to the stigma surrounding poor mental health.
She recalled that many people assumed she was separated or divorced from her husband after learning she was a single parent. When she informed others that Matthew had died, they thought he’d had a terminal illness.
‘I felt no one knew what to say to me,’ she admitted. ‘People felt uncomfortable.’
Victoria also makes a point of talking about Matthew with her children, especially when remembering the good times.
The mother also makes sure to remind them that what their father went through is ‘still an illness’.
‘He was unwell and needed help,’ she explained.
‘Mental health is probably more spoken about now, but not suicide prevention.’
The mental health campaigner encouraged anyone who is going through what Matthew (pictured horse riding with children) was experiencing – or is worried about a loved one – to speak up
Victoria revealed that it’s by learning to tackle the taboo subject for herself, by speaking about it, that she was also able to heal and ensure her husband had a legacy.
‘I didn’t want to sit in a corner and rock,’ she added.
The mental health campaigner encouraged anyone who is going through what Matthew was experiencing – or is worried about a loved one – to speak up.
‘It really is a subject nobody wants to talk about,’ she said.
‘Seek help. It’s a huge burden to take on yourself. I never told anybody what was going on and I carried that weight myself… My biggest regret now is, why didn’t I tell anyone.
‘Silence is the most dangerous thing, and it’s the simplest things are he hardest to do.’
Victoria and Matthew set up Riders Minds in 2019. The charity aims to ‘maintaining good mental health, support those struggling with equestrian industry related stresses, competitive pressures or those who take up horse riding as a form of escapism, pleasure, for their mental health, or those struggling with mental health issues’.
For confidential support call Samaritans on 116123 or visit samaritans.org