The last pictures of a man before the end of his life are what his family wants to show everyone.
Pictures of Steffan Rees are not what people expect after he took his own life.
They show pure joy and happiness as he teaches his little niece “If You Are Happy And You Know It”.
Stefan’s sister Sian, from Cardigan, Wales, says her brother was the “life and soul of the party” and the kind of person who “lighted up the room” when he arrived.
She said: “I couldn’t have asked for a better brother.
“He was only 26, had a loving family, a beautiful girlfriend and didn’t say anything about mental health issues.”
Since his death, Sian has tried to find positivity. Together with widows Lisa and Ana, who were also betrayed by suicide, they have set up a self-help group and taken part in an awareness campaign in the UK.
New research from the charity on suicide prevention Campaign against the miserable life (CALM) found that 61% of people would have trouble telling if someone they know was having suicidal thoughts.
The charity wants to raise awareness that the “face of suicide” isn’t always crying and reclusiveness.
A person may appear happy on the outside and to illustrate this the charity has unveiled an exhibition called ‘The Last Photo’ on London’s Southbank.
The outside gallery features 50 smiling photos taken over the past few days of people who have died by suicide. It also tells the stories of shock and sadness experienced by their families and friends.
A photograph of Steffan is also part of the moving exhibition, as are images of Peter Hammett from Swansea and Lee from Tenby.
Along with Sian, Peter’s wife Lisa and Lee’s wife Ana started a support group – LISS – Living in Suicide Shadow – because they felt there was a lack of support for the bereaved of suicide.
Ana said: “We are a peer-to-peer support group aiming to break the ‘isolation’ we often find ourselves in by organizing face-to-face and virtual meetings, walks and family activities with people who are experiencing the pain of suicide.”
The latest figures show that 125 people die by suicide in the UK every week, but it can be difficult to spot the signs that something is wrong
Just months after Ana’s husband died of suicide, another CALM project was launched called 84, which represents the number of people dying each week in the UK in 2018.
Ana, whose children were nine and six when her husband died, said: “The 84 project blew me away.
“It had such a strong message; I couldn’t believe that 84 men took their own lives every week…so many heartbroken families, friends and communities.
“All of a sudden, my husband’s individual act wasn’t so individual.
“If the suicide average has been constant, how can we blame such suicide rates on one person’s reckless choice?
“It felt a lot more like a social issue and if it was, we could do something about it.”
Speaking of this campaign, she said: “I will never forget the beautiful smiles of these beautiful people…beautiful children, beautiful women, handsome men, different ages, different genders, different social classes, different ethnicities, proof that suicide can happen to anyone.”
“The shadows of the leaves moving with the wind and the sun created movement in the photos. I kept looking, hoping they would move.
“And although it was so comforting to see a life-size image, I found it so difficult to leave the exhibition; I wanted to take him home, we miss Lee so much!”
The picture of Lee, who was 41 when he died, was taken in Castell Henllys, Pembrokeshire, on a “wonderful” day with friends.
“There were Roman attacks and Celtic victories, lots of laughter and at one point Lee had all the children cross the creek barefoot in the cold April.
“Never in a million years would any of us believe that it would be gone in less than a few months.
“Our kids were only six and nine when he died. He loved them more than anything and was always with them.
Not long after Lee’s death, Ana met Lisa through Dr. Dai Lloyd, an MS heavily involved in suicide prevention campaigns.
Ana added: “Things have evolved a lot in the last few years but there is a lot of stigma around suicide.
“People were saying things like he’s your husband, you live with him, how did you not see it, some people blame you, others don’t know what to say.
“It is said that we lose around 70% of our family and circle of friends as it is difficult for people to understand and support our grief.
Talking to other people who have had the same experience helped.
The group has helped the three form a close bond.
“We’ve been on a journey together over the last few years and it seemed fitting that we should all take part in The Last Photo campaign and support each other,” she said.
“The exhibition was held on the Southbank in a place I had previously visited with my family including Peter with such happy memories.
“When I saw the life-size photo of Peter, my immediate reaction was to cry.
“I put my hand on his face in disbelief as I recalled this photo I took on our 33rd wedding anniversary, just three months before he passed away.
She added: “When Peter died, I was determined to stand up against the stigma attached to suicide and for his death not being in my vein. I’m so proud that we all took part in the CALM campaign, The Last Photo.
“We hope all of our stories make a difference and ultimately save lives.”
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https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/last-photo-dad-26-taken-27326061 Last photo of father, 26, taken shortly before death, which his family would like to share with everyone