Three Dads Walking campaigners meet minister to discuss getting suicide prevention on curriculum

  • Report by Granada Reports correspondent Mel Barham


Three fathers who raised almost £1 million in memory of the daughters they lost to suicide, are calling for the Government to put suicide prevention on the national curriculum.

Suicide is the biggest killer of young people in the UK, and the dads believe the subject should be being discussed in schools.

Mike Palmer from Sale, along with Andy Airey from Cumbria, and Tim Owen from Shouldham in west Norfolk, met the Minister for care and mental health Gillian Keegan MP, to discuss their desire to get suicide awareness added to the PHSE curriculum.

Andy, Mike and Tim in London to meet health minister Gillian Keegan MP Credit: ITV

Mike's daughter Beth, took her own life during the first lockdown in 2020 - she was 17-years-old.

He believes if suicide prevention had been on the curriculum, she might still be alive.

Mike said: "If we equip our young people from an early age to be aware of mental health issues, and ultimately suicide, I think an awareness of how to reach out would be a support mechanism they could carry through their lives."

Beth Palmer was 17 when she took her own life in 2020

Mike says all three Dads are determined to see change.

He added: "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 meeting coincides with national Children's mental health week.

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

Tim's daughter Emily was 19 when she died. He said: "If suicide is the biggest killer of our young people then why aren't we equipping firstly teachers, and then also children to deal with that so that when they have moments when they feel depressed, we need to teach them that they will come out the other side of it. At the moment suicide is a hidden word."

Andy lost his daughter Sophie to suicide and believes getting the topic discussed in schools will give young people more resilience

Andy Airey who lost his daughter Sophie, added: "If that had been done with our daughters when they went through school, then there's a chance that when the really difficult time came in their lives, rather than take that final decision, that step that couldn't be reversed, they might have picked up a phone and asked for help."

Minister for Mental Health, Gillian Keegan, said: “Every suicide is a tragedy and my sympathies go out to anyone who has sadly experienced the loss of a family or friend.

"Hearing the experience of the three fathers who have lost their daughters really brings home the devastating reality that suicide has on the individuals left behind. 

“I am absolutely committed to supporting children’s mental health and suicide prevention, and am grateful to Mike, Andy and Tim for coming forward to talk about their own losses and sharing Sophie, Emily and Beth’s stories with me.

 “It was lovely to meet them and hear about their amazing work to raise awareness and reduce stigma around mental health and suicide.

 “We are investing more than any previous government to expand and reform mental health services to ensure anyone who needs support can access it. If you are struggling, or worried about someone else, reach out – help is there for you”. 


How did 3 Dads Walking come about?

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.

In October 2021, the trio walked more than 300 miles to raise awareness of young suicide, winning widespread support from the public.

Worried about 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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James’ Place

Suicide prevention centre in Liverpool offering life-saving support to men in suicidal crisis.

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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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