Liverpool schools first to trial lessons in suicide prevention

3 Dads Walking took their campaign for suicide prevention to be taught at schools all the way to Westminster Credit: ITV News

Granada Reports Correspondent Mel Barham has been following the story of 3 Dads Walking and has spoken to Mike Palmer who's on the steering group of the new trial to teach suicide prevention in schools

Six schools in Merseyside have become the first to trial new lessons on suicide prevention.

The campaign to teach young people about the dangers has been led by the three bereaved fathers known as 3 Dads Walking.

Mike Palmer from Greater Manchester, Andy Airey from Cumbria and Tim Owen from Norfolk, joined forces after their daughters took their own lives.

Beth, Sophie and Emily all took their own lives. After their deaths, their dads set up 3 Dads Walking

The trio completed two marathon walks, raising more than a million pounds.

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.

As well as raising awareness their aim was to highlight the need for suicide prevention to be included on the school curriculum.

The 2 year trial, taking place in 6 schools in Liverpool, is the first of its kind in the UK. Holy Family Catholic High School is one of the schools to take part in the lessons that are taught by Grassroots Suicide Prevention.

One of the 3 Dads, Mike Palmer from Sale - whose daughter Beth took her own life four years ago - was there for the lesson and is on the steering group of the trial. He said:

"There is always the chance that it could have made a difference with Beth, if Beth had been more ware and I had been more aware, what we are teaching these kids now they will take into adulthood they will take into parenthood and there is always a chance that Bethy would still be here"

The trial is being run by Liverpool John Moores University and is based on a programme called MAPSS already being used in Australia. Year 10 students are taught how to spot the signs of suicide and how to get help, they are also screened and those identified as high risk are offered an 8 week course of support.

This randomised control trial by Liverpool John Moores University is the first of its kind in the UK, funded by the government, it will look at the safety of the lessons and whether they’re effective.

Lucy Skillen is the Pastoral Manager and Mental Health lead at Holy Family Catholic High, she said:

"It is a real worry, we tend to have a lot more who are self harming and therefore are at risk of suicide, we have noticed it in our upper years for quite a few years, but we are now starting to see a large proportion coming in from Primary School"

Mike Palmer believes the programme will save lives, he said "To teach our children the life skills in keeping themselves safe and this MAPSS programme is exactly the sort of thing we are looking at, it is a whole school approach bringing in teaching staff and parents and it is a whole societal change"

The Government are yet to decide whether to add suicide prevention to the curriculum, but the findings of this 2-year trial could help inform that decision.

Should suicide prevention be taught in schools? We ask the question in our podcast, From the North

Worried about mental health?


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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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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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 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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The Martin Gallier Project

The Martin Gallier Project are a Wirral-based charity dedicated to helping individuals and families across the North West of England.

They were the UK's first Suicide Prevention, Intervention and Postvention charity. The project offers non clinical suicide interventions on the high street, with no barriers to access, waiting list or criteria.

The service is open 7 days a week 9.30am-4.30pm - lines and emails are only monitored during these hours.

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