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'My brother had no history of depression when he took his own his life, his story might spare another family heartbreak'

Katie Lightfoot pictured with her brother Sam. Credit: Katie Lightfoot.

To his sister Katie, Sam Lightfoot will always be remembered as her ''magnetic, funny, handsome, successful'' brother who had everything to live for.

Yet the 33-year-old property developer was battling depression, which he kept hidden from his family, and Katie said he displayed none of the typical signs associated with the mental illness.

Two days after giving the best man's speech at his brother's wedding in June last year, Sam was found dead at his Victorian villa in Essex.

Almost a year has passed since his death and his family are still in shock.

Determined that Sam's passing should not be in vain, fashion designer Katie Lightfoot has decided to share his story for the first time with ITV News to coincide with the UK’s Mental Health Awareness Week which runs from May 13 to May 19.

Katie hopes it will prevent another family from experiencing the same tragedy.

Sam Lightfoot pictured a year before he took his life supporting a friend in a triathlon. Credit: Katie Lightfoot

Describing her brother, Katie said: ''Sam was magnetic, hilariously funny, he was very handsome, had girlfriends - everyone who knew him idolised him.

''Sam was the light amongst our family and his friends.

''Sam wasn't your stereotypical depressive - he had never had mental health issues. ''No one, no one would have expected it from someone like Sam. If it could happen to someone like Sam then no one is immune.''

According to charity CALM(Campaign Against Living Miserably), suicide is the biggest killer of men under the age of 45 in the UK.

Sam launched his own company, CDA Property Limited, when he was in his 20s, turning it into a lucrative venture a few years later.

However once he hit his 30s, Katie said she thought her brother was starting to feel pressure to settle down and have a family, but still seemed to be chasing a dream. ''I think he felt a bit lost about where he needed to be. He wasn't sure about what path he wanted to take,'' said Katie.

Sam Lightfoot pictured at Glastonbury in 2016. Credit: Katie Lightfoot

Katie said Sam's behaviour did change around March and April last year, but ''even then it was not obvious, it's only now when we look back that we can see.

''He started to withdraw - he was a big social cat and he stopped going out. ''Friends had not seen him for five or six months, he would decline invitations for roast dinners and just started to withdraw.

''We thought it was his work but he had to have been suffering with mental health but he wasn't comfortable talking about it. If only we had known...

''He would often say, I'm busy doing this or I've got this project on and we know now that it was just an excuse and he was indoors being isolated and we just had no idea.''

Sam Lightfoot in a grey t-shirt, bottom right, with his many friends. Credit: Katie Lightfoot.

Weeks before his brother Will tied the knot at Marlborough Hall in Norfolk, Sam joined him and his friends on a stag do.

Recalling Sam's behaviour at the time, Katie said: ''At the stag do weeks earlier he won the go kart race and he was 'Sam the life and soul of the party' and he could still put on that act and be that guy that we all knew him to be.

''Now we think, why didn't we grab him and help - we saw he had lost weight. But he was still able to talk normally and we don't know why he kept this from us.

''We need to get the message out there that it's ok to not be ok.''

Sam Lightfoot enjoyed water sports. Credit: Katie Lightfoot

Katie spoke to Sam after he gave the best man's speech at his brother's wedding which was on a Saturday in June and remembers he ''was quite critical of his speech. He left on Sunday to go home and sent a text message to let us know that he was home safe.''

Hours later on Monday, Sam was discovered at his home having taken his own life. ''Every day I think about how I would have liked to have changed that time,'' said Katie.

She added: 'We torture ourselves going through the weeks leading up to it, did he say this because of that. And now we can see things differently.

''He was very good in the way that he protected everyone else and no one really spoke to one another - we all spoke through Sam - had we spoken to one another we would have realised [that there was a problem].''

Almost a year has passed since Sam's death and Katie said she is determined his legacy will live on.

Katie, who owns fashion brand Mercy Delta, has collaborated with artist Dan Baldwin.

In the last two years he has also lost three close friends to suicide, including Bernie Katz, the much-loved manager of the Groucho club.

In the run-up to the UK’s Mental Health Awareness Week (13-19 May 2019), Mercy Delta and Dan Baldwin are launching a collection of limited edition, ethically made silk shirts called #LifeAndSoul for male suicide awareness and support.

Twenty per cent from each sale will go to male suicide prevention charity CALM.

Katie Lightfoot & Dan Baldwin have launched silk shirts to raise money for CALM. Credit: Katie Lightfoot
  • If you're struggling with your mental health, contact CALM on 0800 58 58 58

Katie said: ''It's still super raw for us as a family and still very much a trauma for all of us. ''It still feels like it hasn't really happened. I still can't accept the fact of life without him.

''If it could happen to someone like Sam then no one is immune. Sam had never shown any signs of depression.

''Sam's depression didn't present itself to us in the way we would have expected it to. We’ve learnt the hard way it can come in many forms and at any pace - literally in just a couple of months.

''Mental health is invisible. Sam is someone who was in his 30s who on the outside had a great business, a great house and had so much to live for and if it can happen to someone like that in such a small space of time that's what's so frightening for me.

''If you are struggling, speak up. You don't have to deal with it alone.''