(Cpl) Mandy Small’s husband (Cpl) Chris took his own life in November 2016 leaving Mandy to break the devastating news to their young son. 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.
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Mandy said: “I think Chris was so used to having everything done for him in the Army when he came out onto Civvy Street he struggled with the basics and got himself into quite a financial muddle. He always stuck his head in the sand and thought things would go away.
“When you’re in the Army your rent comes straight out of your wages. When we were based in Germany even your gas and electric were covered but when you come out of the Forces suddenly you have to budget for all those bills. He had changed a lot during his last two years of service and we initially separated because I found out he had been unfaithful and he was drinking too much. He hadn’t been officially diagnosed with PTSD but he was obviously struggling.”
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 committed suicide.
Mandy said: “I can only think Chris must have been desperate. My son Jamie was eight at the time – now nine. The first couple of months it was incredibly difficult for him especially with Christmas coming so soon afterwards 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.”
Sue is also sourcing funding to pay for rose bushes to be planted in memory of Chris. Mandy said: “Chris spent three years at the local Army barracks and they have got a memorial garden where we hope to have his ashes. It will be somewhere for my son to go when he needs to.
“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 year has 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.”