3 Dads Walking: Parliament debates whether suicide should be put on school curriculum

Video by ITV Granada Reports correspondent Mel Barham

MPs have been debating whether suicide prevention should be a mandatory part of the school curriculum following a campaign by three bereaved dads.

The 3 Dads Walking have been calling on the Government to change the curriculum following the deaths of their daughters to suicide.

After gaining almost 160,000 signatures on their online petition, MPs debated the issue on Monday 13 March.

Mike Palmer's daughter Beth was 17 when she took her own life at the beginning of lockdown.

Mike Palmer from Sale in Greater Manchester, lost his 17-year-old daughter Beth at the beginning of lockdown and, united by grief, joined forces with Andy Airey and Tim Owen to make a change.

In September 2022 they walked 600 miles across the country, to all four UK parliaments, to raise awareness of their campaign.

After reaching more than 100,000 signatures, the Government agreed to a debate in Westminster Hall.

Mike, Andy, and Tim, known as the 3 Dads Walking, said: “Suicide is the biggest killer of young people in the UK. Around 200 school-aged children take their own lives every year.

"We need our decision makers to understand and address the issue. Attending the debate on our petition will inform our MPs and encourage them to make changes that will save lives.

“Talking about suicide and suicide prevention saves lives.”

Nick Fletcher, Conservative MP for Don Valley in Yorkshire, opened the debate, said: “Suicide is the biggest killer of people under the age of 35 and we have sadly started to see the numbers of suicides for people of secondary school age increase."

Debbie Abrahams Labour MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth broke down during the debate talking about her 20 year old nephew Jack who took his own life.

The MP said he had been treated for severe acne and his family want more awareness of the dangers of a group of drugs including Roaccutane.

They also want more support for students at universities who express concerns about their mental health.

Ms Abrahams paid tribute to the 3 Dads Walking for their tireless campaign and spoke in support of their call for mandatory suicide prevention training.

Nick Fletcher said: "This is a small change but it will save lives. The 3 Dads Walking have shown the public are behind this move, and I will be urging the Government to exercise its power to make this happen.”

In the latest episode of From the North we ask should suicide prevention be taught in schools?

PAPYRUS, the prevention of young suicide charity, who the dads have worked alongside, raising more than £1 million for, have called the lack of education around suicide a "national scandal".

Chief Executive Ged Flynn, said: “Placing suicide prevention on the curriculum gives a clear signal to teachers and parents that we, as a country, honour children, see them, care about them and want them to be themselves, whatever their academic or technical ability.

"Until then desperate children will continue turning to their peers for help and support.

"It is a national scandal that they are starting conversations in the playground which are not being heard in the classroom."

In its response to the petition, provided on 21 October 2022, the Government said: “Schools can teach about suicide to older pupils in an age-appropriate way.

"When we review the RSHE guidance we will look at whether there is more we need to do to support them to do so safely.”

Mike Palmer from 3 Dads Walking meeting with the parliament Credit: UK Parliament/Andy Bailey

The Government say they have brought forward their review of the RSHE statutory guidance, which was due to begin in September 2023, saying it will now start immediately.

In a letter to the 3 Dads, Secretary of State for Education Gillian Keegan, said "Suicide prevention will be one of the key subjects that they will explore as a priority area of the review."

Meanwhile a Government spokesperson told ITV's Granada Reports: "Our deepest sympathies are with the families and friends of those affected by suicide.

"All children are taught about mental health, including topics relating to suicide prevention, as part of the mandatory Relationships, Sex and Health Education curriculum.

“We are also strengthening support in schools to help prevent mental health issues developing by increasing the number of Mental Health Support Teams, with over 500 planned to be up and running by 2024.

"More widely, we are improving the availability of mental health support for all ages through the Plan for Patients, including access to NHS talking therapies.”

The 3 Dads Walking meet the petitions committee ahead of the debate in parliament Credit: UK Parliament/Andy Bailey

The debate will provide opportunities for MPs to question the Government directly on this issue.

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