'We met as grieving dads, now we're friends for life'

3 Dads Walking - Tim Owen, Mike Palmer and Andy Airey came into the Granada Reports studio to talk to Lucy Meacock and Gamal Fahnbulleh


Three men who lost their daughters to suicide have written a book about the hundreds of miles they've walked together to raise awareness of suicide prevention.

"Three Dads Walking, 300 Miles of Hope" tells the story of Mike Palmer from Sale, Andy Airey from Cumbria and Tim Owen from Norfolk's first walk in 2021, as they attempted to raise awareness of the biggest killer of under 35s.

In memory of their daughters – Sophie, Beth and Emily – their walk took them across Britain from each of their homes in Cumbria, Greater Manchester and Norfolk, as putting one foot in front of the other, they fought for their message to be heard.

Their book, which is told in three distinct parts by each dad, has been put together from their personal diaries of the walk, and they say it is "about the power of speaking out, of friendship, and hope (and blisters)."

The dads say their book is to 'spread a message of hope'

The dads released a joint statement ahead of the book being published: "The suicide of our daughters sent our lives on completely unexpected trajectories; however, as we have walked we have realised that talking about our girls and our experiences has helped many other families to avoid suffering the same fate as us.

"Talking about suicide prevention saves lives and in publishing our story we want to continue to spread our message of hope.

"We were (and are) three ordinary dads who found ourselves in a desperate place we never expected to be, engulfed by pain and suffering beyond imagining.

"We wanted to do something and this is what it became … what we became."

3 Dads Walking - Tim Owen, Mike Palmer and Andy Airey

Who are the Three Dads?

Mike Palmer, from Sale Manchester, lost his 17-year-old daughter Beth to suicide at the beginning of lockdown in 2020

Tim Owen, from Norfolk, lost his 19-year-old daughter Emily in 2020

Andy Airey from Morland in Cumbria, lost his 29-year-old daughter Sophie in 2018.

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

A year after their first walk in 2021, they doubled that distance, walking between the parliaments of all four nations from Northern Ireland through Scotland, Wales and England as part of their campaign to make suicide prevention a compulsory part of the school curriculum.

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

Their efforts also raised more than a million pounds for the national charity PAPYRUS Prevention of Young Suicide.

Worried about mental health?

PAPYRUS

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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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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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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