HAMBURG, N.Y. (WKBW) — Bill Benedict is still living a nightmare, trying to find words after his son Matthew died by suicide last week.
"He knew that I loved him, but it wasn't enough," Bill said. He continued, "That was the worst phone call that I could have ever received."
Matthew was just 26-year-old. He was a UB Law student interning his summer at a Buffalo firm. He grew up in Eden in a tight-knit family eventually graduating from Nichols School in Buffalo and Middlebury College as a decorated athlete and scholar.
"Just the type of kid you wanted to be around," his dad said. The Benedict family says Matthew was always humble, compassionate and always willing to help others.
"He just loved life and that is why this is so difficult," Bill said. A big part of Matthew's life was sports. Football was a passion of his and while at Middlebury, he was captain of the football team. But he suffered at least two concussions during his college football career.
"We do feel after that he changed," Bill said. It was the day after Matthew graduated from college in 2015 he wrote this blog first describing his struggle with mental health.
"These times have been the scariest times of my life and have lasted many months. Not scary because I was actually scared, but scary because I felt nothing at all," Matthew wrote in that blog. Adding, "Tell everyone you love them every single day and treat those you don't know with the same love."
"And that's one thing Matt was able to do that most of us didn't do is he wasn't afraid to speak out," Bill said of his son. Matthew's parents say his family was by his side through his struggle, taking him to see doctors and counselors.
"He was fighting some demons."
Matthew started a conversation so many shy away from. A conversation he was determined to continue, something his family plans on doing in his honor.
"This is something he was passionate about and this is now our mission."
A mission to help others, to educate others and raise awareness. A mission that will hopefully give people a place to turn. The Benedict's are hoping to do all of that through "Matthew Benedict's One Last Goal."
People can donate to the non-profit, which is an endowment through the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo. The money will go towards helping students and athletes struggling the same way Matthew did, through outreach, education and awareness.
"If we can save one life that that's what this is all about...If someone could've said to us, 'Hey. We can help you save your son's life,' that would've been wonderful. And that's what we're aiming to do in his honor."
Matthew's mother, Anne Benedict, wrote this via email about her son:
We are normally very private people, but if by us being upfront about Matthew could save one person's life so another family does not feel the pain that we are feeling, it will be well worth it.
It appeared that Matthew had everything--an incredible close and supportive family, a loving and supportive girlfriend, plenty of friends, a wonderful school with supportive professors, and an excellent law firm with caring partners and colleagues, a bright mind, and a rich, full life. Somehow, Matthew struggled to see this himself.
With our One Last Goal fund, we have worked with the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo to collect and manage any donated money. The objective of this non-profit endowment from its inception on July 02, 2019 is to reach those who are suffering like Matthew did. He was all about meeting others on their terms and walking beside them to get the help they needed. We believe that Matthew would want any donations in his name to be used to establish and support efforts that help students and/or athletes who are struggling as he did for the last five years of his life. The trustees of this endowment, in consultation with a variety of professionals in the fields of mental health, education, athletics, law, and others are deeply committed to working toward Matthew's one last goal-- providing specific avenues of support for individuals like himself who feel as though nobody understands them and they have nowhere to turn.
Matthew struggled with finding others who felt the same way as him. As a mother, this is truly heartbreaking.
If I could offer any words of advice to other families, it would be to try to get a conversation going and keep it going about mental health. This may not prevent a tragedy like ours, but it may help someone who is struggling see a little bit clearer. And in Matthew's words "Tell everyone you love them every single day and treat those you don’t know with the same love."
If you are in need of help or know someone who does, there are resources available.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline available 24/7 is 1-800-273-8255.
To reach Crisis Services in Erie County 24/7 call 834-3131.