Mandy Small’s husband Chris took his own life in November 2016, leaving Mandy to break the devastating news to their young son Jamie. She has since been supported by her local SSAFA branch, who have provided practical and emotional help.
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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.
“He had changed a lot during his last two years of service," says Mandy. "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.”
Mandy, who served 12 years in the RAF Police, has been supported throughout by SSAFA a caseworker, who was able to provide vital practical assistance and emotional support ranging from sourcing funding to cover funeral costs to arranging bereavement counselling for Jamie.
Mandy said “I worked quite closely with SSAFA volunteers when I was in the RAF. It’s always been a charity I have supported. You just never think it will be you that needs help.”
Inspired to give back, ten-year-old Jamie organised a SSAFA Fun Day at his Wickham Market Primary School. The event raised almost £6,000. Mandy said: "Suffolk really pulled together. 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.”
Jamie has since been named Inspirational Young Person of the Year at Suffolk’s Raising the Bar Awards 2018. The award recognises those aged 12 years and under “whose attitudes and positive approach to life has a direct impact on the social, moral, cultural and spiritual aspects of life of others”.