Three Dads Walking: The fathers united by suicide take on challenge to raise awareness


Three fathers, including one from Manchester, whose daughters took their own lives, are taking part in a charity walk to raise awareness of suicide prevention.

Mike Palmer, from Manchester, lost his 17-year-old daughter Beth to suicide last year at the beginning of lockdown.

Beth Palmer took her own life last year during lockdown

Following her death, Mike met two other fathers who were going through the same devastating experience.

Tim Owen, from Norfolk, lost his daughter Emily just days before Beth.

Andy Airey from Morland in Cumbria, lost his daughter Sophie three years ago.

Emily Owen took her own life just days before Beth Palmer last year
Andy Airey with his daughter Sophie

The dads began talking about what they could do to prevent other families going through the same heartbreak, and set on the idea of walking from each of their homes in a bid to raise awareness for the suicide charity Papyrus. 3 Dads Walking was born.

Tim Owen, Mike Palmer and Andy Airey who together will walk 300 miles from each of their homes Credit: Three dads walking

Mike Palmer says: "All three dads believe if we'd had, as dads, more knowledge and awareness, and Emily, Beth and Sophie had more awareness and had known how to reach out, they'd still be here now."

The route will take them from Andy's home in Cumbria, through Mike's home in Greater Manchester and on to Tim's home in Kings Lynn

The challenge sees all three dads walking 300 miles from Cumbria, through Manchester and finishing in Norfolk.

They are raising money for the suicide prevention charity Papyrus, and have already raised more than £237,000.

But it's not really about the money, more importantly the fathers desperately want to raise awareness of the work the charity does, and that help is out there for anyone who may be feeling suicidal.

Mike with his daughter Beth

"Three Dads Walking is not a club I want to belong to, but along with Andy and Tim it gives us, as fathers, an opportunity to fight back and maybe make a difference.

“We are all too aware that there are more young people out there falling into despair and see no way out other than to end their own precious lives.

“We hope that by linking our three homes and telling our three daughters’ very different stories we will put a spotlight on young mental health and ultimately the brutal effects of suicide,” said Mike.

The walk in memory of their daughters Beth, Sophie and Emily, began on Saturday 9 October.

The trio began in Morland in Cumbria, the home of Andy Airey, where they headed south, walking through South Lakeland and Lancashire to Mike Palmer’s home in Greater Manchester.

After leaving Greater Manchester the 3 Dads Walking then went south east through Cheshire, Staffordshire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire before arriving at Tim’s family home in King’s Lynn.

Averaging 20 miles a day 3 Dads Walking aim to complete their challenge in 15 days, finishing their journey on Saturday 23 October.

Beth Palmer, Sophie Airey and Emily Owen

"The reason it's between the dads and the daughters is to protect our families. Our families are valiantly carrying on with their own lives and it is tough.

"And I am so proud of them, and sometimes this 3 Dads Walking it is almost selfish of us dads do this but we're doing it because we are dads and we're trying to make a difference."

Beth Palmer took her own life last year. Her father believes she didn't know what help was out there

Every step of the way they will be remembering their daughters and supporting the work of PAPYRUS Prevention of Young Suicide; promoting the charity’s belief that many young suicides can be prevented.

Ged Flynn, Chief Executive of PAPYRUS, says the walk will be a life-saver.

He added: “Andy, Mike and Tim were leading different lives in different parts of the country and would probably never have met had they not been brought together by the tragedy and trauma of suicide which has shattered their lives and the lives of those around them.

“As 3 Dads Walking they will be able to channel their energy and focus on what they can do to help save young lives.

“It is remarkable that these proud fathers, who are each trying to deal with their own grief in their own way, have found a positive path forward together.”

You can find out much more about their stories, details of the route and how to donate on their website here.


I'm worried about my or someone I know's mental health?

CALM

CALM, or the Campaign Against Living Miserably, runs a free and confidential helpline and webchat – open from 5pm to midnight every day, for anyone who needs to talk about life’s problems.

It also supports those bereaved by suicide, through the Support After Suicide Partnership (SASP).

  • Phone their helpline: 0800 585858 (Daily, 5pm to midnight)

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Mind

Mind is a mental health charity which promotes the views and needs of people with mental health issues.

It provides advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem, and campaigns to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding.

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PAPYRUS

For practical, confidential suicide prevention help and advice you can contact PAPYRUS HOPELINEUK on 0800 068 4141, text 07860 039967 or email pat@papyrus-uk.org

Suicide is the biggest killer of young people in the UK. PAPYRUS aims to reduce the number of young people who take their own lives by breaking down the stigma around suicide and equipping people with the skills to recognise and respond to suicidal behaviour.

HOPELINEUK is the charity’s confidential helpline service providing practical advice and support to young people with thoughts of suicide and anyone concerned about a young person who may have thoughts of suicide.

HOPELINEUK is staffed by trained professionals, offering a telephone, text and email service.

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Samaritans

Samaritans is an organisation offering confidential support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair.

  • Phone 116 123 (a free 24 hour helpline)

  • Email: jo@samaritans.org

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YoungMinds

YoungMinds is a resource with information on child and adolescent mental health, but also offers services for parents and professionals.

It is the UK’s leading charity fighting for children and young people's mental health, and wants to make sure all young people can get the mental health support they need, when they need it

  • YoungMinds Textline - Text YM to 85258

  • Phone Parents' helpline 0808 802 5544 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am - 4pm)

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