A British Army soldier hanged himself after being told to ‘man up’ when requesting time off to look after his daughter during lockdown, an inquest heard.
Rifleman Mitchell Matthews, 24, was given time off to care for his then four-year-old as his nurse wife Katy worked on the NHS frontline during the pandemic.
But in the days leading up to his death he felt he was coming under increasing pressure to fulfil his Army duties, at one point being told to ‘man up’, according to his widow.
Mrs Matthews told Wiltshire and Swindon coroner’s court she was drafted into help at Salisbury District Hospital during the pandemic.
Rifleman Mitchell Matthews, 24, with wife Katy who told the hearing her husband was told to ‘man up’ as he struggled to juggle career and looking after their daughter
At the time her husband was serving as part of D Company 5 Rifles battalion at Bulford camp, Wilts and the family were living in married quarters at the base.
She said that at first the Army did give Rfn Matthews some time off but was struggling as he missed work and was told his career would stall.
He was found dead in their home on July 24 last year.
She told the Salisbury hearing: ‘At the end of the day it was just too much pressure in such an uncertain time. He was struggling and he was told to man up.
‘Mitchell was allowed time off but as time went on he started to receive more calls. He could only attend during hours when our daughter was at school.
‘We had no other support, we were away from our family and at this point households were not allowed to mix. He was told that he wouldn’t progress in his career as he wasn’t giving enough effort.
‘My husband’s passion for the army went beyond just a job. He wanted to make a difference.
‘He often explained that he was not treated like a man with family responsibilities.’
The inquest heard the couple started to experience difficulties in their marriage and on one occasion Rfn Matthews overslept because he had been drinking and playing video games and missed taking his daughter to school.
This led to his wife asking him to leave the marital home.
Rfn Mitchell Matthews was found hanged in their home on July 24, the inquest was told
The inquest heard that the Army provided counselling and marriage support for the pair, but Katy emailed the welfare team at Bulford, saying she was concerned with a ‘lack of support during lockdown’ and ‘bullying’ of Mitchell over his inability to attend his duties as regularly as before.
She said she couldn’t understand why he wasn’t placed on a high risk list by the welfare team or why he was told to stay in quarters on his own.
The inquest heard that in July last year his wife and daughter went on holiday having made plans for Rfn Matthews to join them the following week.
The day after their departure he went out for drinks with his colleagues in Amesbury. Those that were with him that evening said he was in ‘high spirits’, ‘seemed fine’ and ‘appeared nothing was wrong with him’.
But later that night he messaged a friend on WhatsApp, saying: ‘I’m pretty gone, but I feel like ending it all.’
The next day, after this message was seen, army officers and military police went to the family’s quarters – which Rfn Matthews had been allowed to return to in his wife’s absence – and found his body.
Mrs Matthews said they received ‘no support’ and her husband was told he would not progress in his career as he wasn’t giving enough effort
An Army chaplain told the inquest that he had been in almost constant contact with Rfn Matthews in the lead up to his death.
Matthew Dietz explained he had been speaking to the couple about working on their marriage and had arranged extra time off for the soldier so that they could enjoy a family holiday together.
He said: ‘He didn’t make any comment about being bullied.
‘I had absolutely no indication from Mitchell that he was considering suicide.
‘My judgement is that Mitchell’s death was unpredictable and unpreventable.’
Assistant Coroner for Wiltshire & Swindon Ian Singleton adjourned the hearing and will deliver a conclusion at a later date.
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