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Claire Amos tells heartbreaking story of her brother's suicide in Ben Akers' film 'Steve: Saving Men From Suicide'

On May 28, 2014, loving father-of-two Steve Yates took his own life. He was one of 4,500 men who die by suicide every year.

Now, a campaign film named Steve: Saving Men From Suicide is set to raise awareness of the UK’s biggest killer of men under 45.

Jodie Nesling talks to Steve’s sister Claire about the tragedy and their hopes for the future.

Claire looked out for her younger brother
Claire looked out for her younger brother

As the phone rang loudly at 3.30am, piercing the early-morning quiet, Claire Amos picked up the receiver fearing the worst.

And as her anguished mother Lorraine repeated the words ‘He’s gone, he’s gone’, the devastated mum-of-two sank to the side of the bed in shock.

“Mum’s voice sounded strange; it wasn’t a cry or a shout,” she tells me.

“My husband took the phone off me and tried to lift me up. I just went stiff. I thought that just happened in films but it really doesn’t. I just sat there shaking, it was shock.”

Steve with loving mum,Lorraine
Steve with loving mum,Lorraine

Lorraine, who lives in Birchington, had called her daughter earlier on that fateful day concerned that Steve, a BT engineer, had not picked his children up.

Claire said: “It’s really weird, I can remember everything about that phone call.

“My mum rang me at around 5pm and I knew something was not right, mum said to me, ‘Steve didn’t pick his children up and did not meet Becca (cousin.)’.

“I knew it was serious and I remember that whole 24 hours.

“Mum’s voice sounded strange; it wasn’t a cry or a shout...” Claire Amos

“The whole time I kept calm and said to my parents, ‘He must be at a friend’s house’. Time went on and it felt more and more serious.

“I wrote on Facebook ‘Has anyone seen my brother?’. I didn’t want to worry anyone but in my heart of hearts I knew he’d done something stupid.”

After searching all evening, Claire returned home at around 1am. Several hours later police broke the devastating news that they had found Steve hanged in woodland near Folkestone. He was 38 years old.

Heartbroken, the close-knit family searched for answers as they became overwhelmed with grief.

The family of four were very close
The family of four were very close

Claire said: “It’s been really difficult and I still can’t get my head around it, he had really thought about it.”

The avid Manchester United fan had left a note but it provided no answers for the family, which was especially difficult for Lorraine, who enjoyed a very close relationship with her only son.

“I think she was upset as there was no mention of the family (in the note) but I said to her if he’d began to think about us he’d never have gone through with it.”

Claire, who lives in Westgate with husband Lee and their two children, describes her brother as shy, loving and a renowned practical joker.

“I hated going on camera and didn’t really want to do it but if it helps another family then it is worth it...” Claire Amos

They were close but she says Steve became isolated when he moved to Canada with his young family and hated being far away from home.

After returning to Thanet he struggled to cope but dad Les says he could never imagine their son revealing to them he was suffering with mental health problems.

This prompted Steve’s best friend, Ben Akers, to explore the reasons why men do not seek help. An award-winning filmmaker, he is creating a campaign travelling the country speaking to men about suicide, determined to make a change.

The effect on the family, who have also been interviewed for the piece, has been profound.

Steve with dad Les
Steve with dad Les

“I hated going on camera and didn’t really want to do it but if it helps another family then it is worth it,” Claire says.

“Because of the film we have been able to tell the children what really happened to Steve as before we had just said it was an accident. It’s all out in the open and we talk all the time about how important it is to be happy.”

In the four years since Steve’s death, the family have continued to try and live the best they can.

Claire said: “From my point of view we have to get on with things.

“Mum and dad are still young and they are still working. I’m very protective of them. I feel bad for them.

“It’s just so unfair. He has two young children he left behind, it makes me angry.

“Our little family of four has been shattered but you have to carry on...” Claire Amos

“We had such a lovely childhood, amazing memories and lots of happy times and good holidays.

“Our little family of four has been shattered but you have to carry on.”

The final documentary will be launched on December 2 – on what would have been Steve’s 43rd birthday.

Ben will then spend 2019 on a pub tour, which will involve screenings, Q&As with people from the area featured in the film and audience discussions around male mental health.

Margate FC are holding a charity football match in Steve’s honour on Saturday, December, 8. The team will be wearing items from Steve’s collection of Manchester United shirts.

To support the film campaign click here. If you would like confidential support, call the Samaritans on 116 123

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