3 Dads hail new suicide prevention strategy 'encouraging' as ministers pledge to cut death rates

Ministers have pledged to reduce the rates of those taking their own lives in England within two and a half years, as part of a new national suicide prevention strategy.

It follows a high profile campaign by three dads who walked between all four UK parliaments to highlight the need for suicide prevention to be included on the school curriculum.

Mike Palmer from Greater Manchester, along with Andy Airey from Cumbria and Tim Owen from Norfolk, otherwise known as 3 Dads Walking, all joined forces after their daughters took their own lives.

Their online petition gained almost 160,000 signatures, and led to MPs debating the issue as well as meetings with the Prime Minister and the Education Secretary Gillian Keegan.

They have welcomed the announcement by the department of health, and say it is an 'important step forward", but are still pushing for suicide lessons to be a mandatory part of the school curriculum.

  • Mike Palmer from the 3 Dads Walking gave his reaction to Granada Reports

Mike told Granada Reports "It is certainly encouraging that the Government is taking this societal problem seriously.

"3 Dads Walking believe embedding Suicide Prevention early will underpin this strategy.

"We are working hard with the Department of Education to make this happen and it is good to see this work in progress specifically mentioned.

"Suicide is the biggest killer of under 35s in the Uk. Doing nothing is not an option.

The new prevention strategy will also include better support for middle-aged men and a national alert system to highlight new methods of suicide.

The new Government document highlighted how reductions in deaths by suicide have stalled since 2018.

The last prevention strategy was published more than a decade ago and the new one sees ministers set out more than 100 actions to reduce suicides in England.

Beth, Sophie and Emily - who all died by suicide. Their dads have fought to raise awareness ever since

Initiatives outlined in the document include:

  • A national alert system to highlight new methods of suicide to schools, universities and charities and give instruction on how to react and safeguard people who could be affected.

  • Medical experts to review whether reducing the number of paracetamol people can buy in shops could help bring down suicide rates.

  • The Department for Education (DfE) to examine whether suicide and self-harm prevention should be part of the school curriculum.

  • Half of schools in England to have mental health support teams in place by April 2025. The DfE will also offer all state schools and colleges funding to train a senior mental health lead by 2025.

  • More support for bespoke services to help middle-aged men, who are at a higher risk of suicide, including support and sport groups. Ministers are also encouraging construction and manufacturing businesses to take extra steps to support workers, saying these male-dominated industries could do more to help employees.

  • Ensuring pregnant women and new mothers get support at “every contact” with health professionals, who will be required to update a risk assessment at each appointment.

  • Crisis text lines to be rolled out in all areas of England.

  • A consultation on a potential tax for betting companies to fund “research, education and treatment of gambling harms”.

  • More support for bereaved families.

In 2021 there were 5,583 suicides in England and Wales, with three-quarters being men.

The document said: “While overall, the current suicide rate is not significantly higher than in 2012, the rate is not falling.

"We must do all we can to prevent more suicides, save many more lives and ultimately reduce suicide rates.”

It highlighted how rates of suicide among children and young people have increased in recent years, despite being low overall, adding: “Urgent attention is needed to address and reverse these trends”.

Self harm rates have also been rising among children and young people, it added.

Ministers have also pledged to provide “tailored and targeted support” to “priority groups” including those at higher risk of suicide, including middle-aged men, children and young people, those who have self-harmed, mental health service users, autistic people, pregnant women and new mothers, and those “in contact with the justice system”.

Others thought to be at higher risk include gambling addicts, victims of domestic abuse, substance addicts, people in financial difficulties, people who have a physical illness, and those who are isolated or lonely.

The document said early intervention is “vital” and more needs to be done to prevent people from reaching a crisis point in the first place.

It also set out ambitions for a “no wrong door” approach, which means people who seek help for suicidal thoughts will receive support no matter which service they initially access.

In an episode of From the North Mel Barham asked whether suicide prevention be taught in schools?

Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay said: “It’s imperative we support people earlier to prevent them reaching the lowest point, while tackling emerging methods of suicide, and eradicating harmful material online.

“We’re working at pace to achieve this, and we continue to invest billions of pounds to transform and improve our nation’s mental health services and, most importantly, save lives.”

Mental health minister Maria Caulfield said: “The impact of suicide on individuals and loved ones is devastating.

“This strategy will bolster the work this Government is already undertaking to reduce the number of suicides, and help us intervene where needed as early as possible.”

Samaritans chief executive Julie Bentley said: “It is great to see that the Government has responded to our calls for a new national suicide prevention strategy in England.

“However a plan without proper funding is like a car with no petrol – it may look great but it’s not going to get you where you need to be.

“At Samaritans we want to get to the point of achieving the lowest suicide rates ever recorded in this country but this takes both money and ambition.”

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

Dr Sarah Hughes, Chief Executive of the charity Mind, said: “Focusing on driving down suicide is welcome, and we look forward to hearing how the UK Government will fund the plans in this strategy.”

While Mark Winstanley, Chief Executive of Rethink Mental Illness, added: “We welcome efforts from Government to tackle suicide, and within this there is of course a need to prevent access to methods for taking your own life.

“But we must invest the bulk of our resources and energy into supporting people before they reach crisis point.

"Suicide is complex but preventable, and Government can have a significant impact if it works across its departments to tackle the root causes.

“Additionally, we know that local authorities face significant challenges with resources at present, and so we’re keen to see whether more funds are provided to help them reduce suicide in their local areas.”

Worried about mental health?


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 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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For practical, confidential suicide prevention help and advice you can contact PAPYRUS HOPELINE247 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.

HOPELINE247 is the charity’s confidential 24 hour 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.

HOPELINE247 is staffed by trained professionals, offering a telephone, text and email service.

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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 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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