Three Dads Walking fundraisers to meet government over suicide prevention in schools

  • Watch a report by ITV News Anglia's Rob Setchell.

Three fathers who raised nearly £1m in memory of the daughters they lost to suicide will meet the government next month in the next step of their campaign to get suicide prevention added to the school curriculum.

Tim Owen from Norfolk, Mike Palmer from Greater Manchester and Andy Airey from Cumbria won widespread support last year during a 300-mile trek under the banner of Three Dads Walking.

Now their campaign to get mental health taken more seriously in schools is going to Westminster where they will meet health minister Gillian Keegan.

Mr Owen, from Shouldham near King's Lynn, said society must do more to tackle a mental health crisis - one where thousands of young people are left waiting for treatment, and four schoolchildren take their own lives every week.

He said the Three Dads Walking were determined to see change.

"There's so many different emotions because ultimately I've failed my daughter. She's killed herself," he said.

"I've let that happen. But equally we're doing something to create something positive out of such devastation.

Tim Owen with his daughter Emily as a little girl Credit: Family picture

"The three of us would like to see suicide prevention put into schools' PHSE syllabus. We feel that if we can train our young people when they're 11, 12, 13 years old that yes, we all go through down times but suicide is not the answer."

The fathers walked between their homes in 2021 in memory of Emily, who was 19, and 17-year-old Beth Palmer, who both died in March 2020, and Sophie Airey who died just before Christmas in 2018 at the age of 29.

Mr Owen said when Emily took her own life it left a gaping void in his family.

"To start with every day was survival. Getting out of bed, making your own bed in the morning, was survival," he told ITV News Anglia.

"But you've got a decision really. You stay devastated for the rest of your life or you try and do something positive."

Emily Owen: her dad Tim is campaigning to help other young people with mental health problems Credit: Family picture

At the start the dads hoped to raise a few thousand pounds for suicide prevention charity Papyrus.

Today, their total stands at £857,000.

The Three Dads Walking attracted national attention as they made their way across the country in October last year, finally crossing the finish line in Mr Owen's home village of Shouldham to applause from crowds.

Along the way they were joined for parts of the walk by other people whose lives had been touched by suicide, having conversations with the aim of breaking the taboo around the subject.

Who to contact if you or someone you know needs help:

  • Samaritans operates a 24-hour service available every day of the year, by calling 116 123. If you prefer to write down how you’re feeling, or if you’re worried about being overheard on the phone, you can email Samaritans at

  • Papyrus offers support for children and young people under the age of 35 over the phone on 0800 068 41 41 between 9am and midnight every day of the year. If you would rather text you can do so on 07786 209697 or send an email to

  • Mind also offers mental health support between 9am and 6pm, Monday to Friday. You can call them on 0300 123 3393 or text them on 86463. There is also lots of information available on their website.

  • Hector's House is a suicide and crisis prevention and help resource, with links to specialist helplines.