3 Dads Walking: What next for the father fighting for young suicide awareness?

Article and podcast by Correspondent Mel Barham.


Few people could fail to be moved by the '3 dads walking' who recently raised more than 8 hundred thousand pounds after they lost their daughters to suicide.

One of those dads - Mike Palmer from Manchester - lost his daughter Beth last year. She was 17.

Now back home after his epic charity challenge, he's been talking about their incredible achievement and what's next for them in their fight for more young suicide awareness.


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I first met Mike ten years ago, as I covered the story of his attempt to row the Atlantic ocean.

His daughter Beth was eight-years-old, and I interviewed her as part of the story - she excitedly spoke of her pride for her dad.

Last year I would cover the story of their family once again - but in the most tragic of circumstances.

Beth had taken her own life just as lockdown was beginning.

Beth Palmer was 17 when she took her own life last year during lockdown

In the days that followed, in the darkest recesses of grief, Mike was introduced to a fellow bereaved father - Tim Owen - who had just lost his daughter Emily, and both say they found great comfort in each other's support.

Linking up with another father, Andy Airey who had lost his daughter Sophie to suicide, the idea of 3 Dads Walking was born.

Beth, Sophie and Emily who inspired 3 Dads Walking

Walking from Andy's home in Cumbria, to Mike's home in Manchester and on to Tim's home in Kings Lynn in Norfolk, the three dads walked 300 miles, raising awareness of young suicide and stumping up an incredible amount of donations for the suicide prevention charity Papyrus.

The 3 Dads Walking route took them from Cumbria to Manchester to Norfolk Credit: 3 Dads Walking

Their efforts touched the hearts of people across the country - and even got international recognition, attracting donations from Hollywood A-listers like Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig, and Manchester United legend Lou Macari.

Mike, Andy and Tim during their 300-mile walk Credit: 3 Dads Walking

Along the way, they were joined by members of the public who had been touched by suicide.

Fathers, mothers, wives, husbands, sons and daughters all walked with them, telling the three dads of their own experiences.

"The walk was an absolutely incredible experience. Twenty one miles a day isn't the biggest challenge in the world but we were carried by the kindness of people.

"The people we met, the people who came to us, telling us their own heartbreaking, hard stories of suicide, losing their children - some decades ago, some so recent, but we were honoured to listen to these stories and the miles went away, they just ticked away.

"We rarely walked alone."

Mike's daughter Beth took her own life last year


Last month, all three dads wrote an open letter to the Prime Minister casking him to ensure that the topics of mental health and suicide prevention are added to the PSHE curriculum.

They've so far not had a response from the Prime Minister, but Mike told Granada Reports that they are determined to pursue that.

You can find out much more about their stories, 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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