Mandy and Jamie Small

Mandy and her son Jamie lost their husband and father when he took his own life after leaving the Forces.

Mandy and Jamie Small

Mandy and her son Jamie lost their husband and father when he took his own life after leaving the Forces.

Mandy Small’s husband Chris took his own life in November 2016 leaving Mandy to break the devastating news to their young son Jamie. Chris had served 21 years as a chef in the Royal Logistics Corp, including gruelling tours of Iraq, Bosnia, Kosovo, Northern Ireland and two of Afghanistan, but after he took voluntary redundancy in 2014 he found it difficult to adjust to civilian life and the couple separated.

Mandy, 39, who served 12 years in the RAF Police, has been supported throughout by SSAFA caseworker Sue Cross who was able to provide vital practical assistance and emotional support ranging from sourcing funding to cover funeral costs to arranging bereavement counselling for Mandy’s son.

The family had settled in Durham when Chris first left the Army but after they separated Mandy moved to Suffolk to be closer to her parents. Two-and-a-half years after leaving the Army Chris took his own life. Mandy said: "I can only think Chris must have been desperate. He had changed a lot during his last two years of service and we initially separated because he was drinking too much and I found out he had been unfaithful. He hadn’t been officially diagnosed with PTSD but he was obviously struggling. Jamie was eight at the time – now ten – and it was incredibly difficult for him but he is really coping amazingly well."

Unsure where to turn for help, Mandy, who now works as a rehab assistant, spotted an advert for SSAFA on Facebook and got in touch. Caseworker Sue Cross called back the very same day. "Sue went through all the paperwork with me for the pensions and she also got funding to cover the funeral. She has been absolutely fantastic. I’m not sure what we would have done without her. She even helped to organise the counselling for my son. And, when his wardrobe suddenly needed replacing in the middle of everything, she helped with that too."

I worked quite closely with SSAFA volunteers when I was in the air force and it’s always been a charity I have supported. You just never think it will be you that needs help. The last couple of years have certainly given me a new outlook on life. Now every weekend I have off work my son and I are out exploring and making the most of our time together.

Jamie was named Inspirational Young Person of the Year at Suffolk’s Raising the Bar Awards after organising a SSAFA Fun Day at his school which raised almost £6,000. Mandy said: "It was far bigger then we could have even dreamt and people were so generous. The fact that we have been able to turn the worst experience of our lives into a way of helping others makes us extremely proud. I couldn't be prouder of Jamie, he really is a very special young man."

Jamie has since been nominated for a Soldiering On Award.