'If we can help just one person, his death wasn't in vain' - Mum and son's inspiring video with Corrie actor
PUBLISHED: 07:30 09 May 2019 | UPDATED: 13:32 09 May 2019
An inspirational Suffolk youngster and his mum have made a video with a Coronation Street star, to bring hope out of tragedy.
In the film, Mandy and Jamie Small, from Wickham Market, share a cup of tea with actor Antony Cotton. It was made to launch the Big Brew Up campaign for the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA), raising awareness and funds.
Jamie's father, Corporal Chris Small, took his own life in November 2016, after struggling to cope with life out of the Army.
Determined to help others, Jamie now 11, organised a fun day in aid of SSAFA when he was only nine. Accompanied by mum Mandy, he received a Soldiering On award last month.
Now Mandy and Jamie have taken part in a short film with actor Antony, to raise awareness of the need to talk.
"If just one person reaches out and says they need support - if we can help just one person - then Chris's death wasn't in vain," Mandy said. "Obviously I hope we will reach a lot more."
"When people reach that point, then it's proving to them that people do care, and how it destroys the people who are left behind."
In the film, over a cup of tea, Mandy talks to Antony about losing Chris, who had served 21 years in the Royal Logistics Corp, including gruelling tours of Iraq, Bosnia and Afghanistan, as well at Rock Barracks. After taking voluntary redundancy in 2014, he found it difficult to adjust to civilian life and their marriage broke down.
Mandy says in the video: "Someone told Chris it would look weak to ask for help, and that was the last time I spoke to him.
"You just never think it will be you that needs help but, after Chris's suicide, SSAFA's support is what got me through to the next day."
Antony, who plays Sean Tully in the top soap, and is an ambassador for SSAFA, put them at their ease while making the film. "He was so lovely. He was really good with Jamie," Mandy said. "Jamie watches Corrie now, because his mate is in it!"
Mandy tells Antony how, since her husband died in November 2016, SSAFA has been a lifeline for her and Jamie.
"Whenever I need my case worker, she's there to help, always with a cuppa in hand. She made me feel human again."
Jamie also says in the film that he has only just started to feel able to talk about his feelings, rather than bottling them up.
Mandy said: "It's only recently, in the last few weeks, that he has started talking about it a lot more. I think that the grief is only just hitting him."
SSAFA is calling on people to host a Big Brew Up this summer in aid of Armed Forces, veterans and their families.
Mandy wholeheartedly backs the campaign, and said: "I can't praise SSAFA enough. They were there from the beginning, and helped me to be strong for Jamie.
"The amount of times that I sat down with my case worker over a cup of tea. You don't always have to talk about something heavy, but it's so important to know that there is somebody who's going to listen."
Mandy said her mum was planning to hold a Big Brew Up event, and, looking ahead, she herself wants to hold a charity ball. Jamie will be taking a back seat from fundraising for a time.
Julie McCarthy, director of volunteer operations at SSAFA, said: "The cases of individuals who we help at SSAFA are becoming increasingly complicated and require longer periods of support. The money raised through campaigns such as our Big Brew Up will help provide the vital support to personnel, veterans and their families."
To find out more about the Big Brew Up campaign and support the charity, visit the website.