SAN ANTONIO – Suicide is a topic many avoid because it can be uncomfortable, painful or even scary. It’s the same reason author Matthew Mattera is bold in sharing his journey dealing with suicide.
In his new memoir titled “Hope: My Journey of Love, Loss, and Faith” Mattera shares how suicide has touched almost every branch of his family, beginning with his father and most recently with his oldest daughter.
“Over the span of about 30 years, I’ve lost six people in my family to suicide and self-harm,” Mattera said.
Mattera was only six years-old when he lost his father to suicide. In 2004, Mattera’s youngest brother died on an overdose and an uncle committed suicide. Years later, a cousin committed suicide. In 2012, Mattera lost yet another family member to suicide.
“In 2015, I walked through a parent’s worst nightmare and lost my oldest daughter to suicide,” Mattera said. “(She was) violently stolen the same way I lost my dad back in 1984. When suicide stole my oldest daughter, my attitude was, I’m coming (after) you now.”
According to Mattera, the memoir has two objectives: provide hope and reframe the conversation surrounding suicide.
“One of the things I really telegraph to the reader in the book and let them know is that no matter what you walk through, no matter how dark it is in the moment, there’s always hope,” Mattera said. “Always hold on to that immovable anchor of hope.”
Mattera, a recently retired Naval officer, applied his knowledge and experience as an information warfare officer for the U.S. Navy to better educate the community about suicide and the warning signs. He refers to this as an informational diet.
“Everything we take in through our eyes and ears is metabolized by our mind,” Mattera said. “If we can start to change the lens and how we look at the things we take into our eyes and ears, I believe that we start treating our information in the same way we treat our nutritional diet and our mental metabolism the same way we treat our physical metabolism.”
Mattera adds that an informational diet has the power to lead people to a darker place or to a space of hope, especially in modern culture.
“We have to ask ourselves that uncomfortable question. Is it helpful or harmful to take in themes of messages that glorify themes of death, despair and destruction? And if we’re honest, it’s harmful.”
Now, the goal is to help families learn how to focus on themes of purpose to in turn increase the quality of life mentally, emotionally and spiritually of their loved one.
“We’re going to put an end to this thing,” Mattera said referring to suicide. “We’re going to deliver hope. We’re going to save lives. We’re going to end suicide.”
To further their mission, Mattera and his wife recently launched the Elizabeth Mattera Foundation in honor of their late daughter.