School giving suicide prevention lessons wants others to back 3 Dads Walking campaign

Students at Wirral Grammar for Boys have all been given suicide prevention lessons. Credit: ITV News

A school awarded the first ever Suicide Safer School Stamp says it is vital others follow their example by implementing lessons on suicide awareness.

Wirral Grammar School for Boys is the first school in the country to receive the accolade from the Martin Gallier Project, which shows its commitment to suicide prevention.

The charity has been delivering suicide prevention sessions to schools across the Wirral over the past two years, as well as training staff to be able to support pupils having thoughts of suicide.

It comes as parliament debates whether suicide prevention should be added to the national curriculum following a high profile campaign by a group known as the 3 Dads Walking.

The dads, Mike Palmer, Andy Airey and Tim Owen, want lessons like those being taught in Wirral in every school in the country, but say instead the word suicide is often avoided in schools altogether.

  • An example of the lessons taking place at Wirral Grammar School for Boys

The students at Wirral Grammar say having lessons in suicide prevention has allowed them to feel safer and they would welcome a change to the national curriculum.

Sixth former Alfie Barrick said: "I think it's a great idea. I think it is really important to reach out to as many people as possible and make it not so much of a grey area, but a comfortable environment that everyone can feel safe talking about."

Fellow student Jack Tudor added: "I think it does put ideas into heads, but I think it puts positive ideas in our heads.

"I think it puts in the idea that actually we can talk about it if we need to."

Staff at the school say they believe every school should be talking about suicide.

"With it being the biggest killer of under 35s, it is important we break down the stigmas and talk about what's going on and make it not a taboo subject in schools anymore," Learning mentor Adrienne Smith said.

The Martin Gallier Project have been delivering suicide prevention sessions to schools across the Wirral Credit: ITV News

Every week almost four school children take their own lives, that is 200 a year. Suicide is the biggest killer of under 35s in the UK, but it is often a taboo subject in schools.

Although mental health is covered as part of RHSE (Relationship, health and sex education) classes, many schools choose not to directly reference suicide, with some fearing it may put ideas into impressionable heads.

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

Mike Palmer, who lost his 17-year-old daughter Beth at the beginning of lockdown, attended the lesson at Wirral Grammar and believes if Beth had been given suicide prevention lessons, she may be alive today.

"Beth had her whole life ahead of her and I think if a few things had been different, she would have made a better decision," he said.

"There's always a chance if Beth had sat through a talk like that, she would've known how to reach out. She would've known she was not alone.

"But that goes for myself as well. Maybe if I'd had that training when I was young and before I was a parent, I would have known how to read some of the signs, and certainly Beth would be here now.

"We've got to get a balance between academic qualifications and life skills, including suicide prevention."

The Martin Gallier Project is a Wirral-based charity offering support to those in the North West of England, experiencing suicidal crisis. It also offers training to individuals and groups for Suicide Intervention.

For the last two years they have been going into secondary schools across the Wirral delivering their suicide prevention sessions.

These lessons are unusual because they don't shy away from using the word suicide, believing talking openly and directly about suicide is the best way to prevent it.

They are welcoming calls from the 3 Dads Walking to add suicide prevention to the school curriculum.

"It needs to happen," says Deryn Basnett, Head of Operations at Martin Gallier.

"Suicide needs to be spoken about, especially when it comes to children and young people, because they need to be given those skills to be able to support each other and support themselves, and keep themselves safe from suicide."

"One in five people have thoughts of suicide at some point in their life, suicide doesn't discriminate, it can affect anybody, so it's really important that we are talking about suicide to everybody."