Mother is 'so glad' children don't go to school in UK after hearing about mental health provision

  • ITV Granada Reports journalist Mel Barham spoke to Nina, and the 3 Dads, as they campaigned.


An Australian mother has said she is "so grateful" her children do not attend school in England due to a lack of mental health provision for them.

Nina Smith, who is currently researching how schools can teach suicide prevention and what can learnt from other countries, was told the comment as she visited the country on a fact-finding mission.

As a former teacher herself, she is backing the 3 Dads Walking campaign to get suicide prevention put on the National Curriculum.

While on a trip to Melbourne, where it already forms a big part of the curriculum, Nina spoke to students, mothers, mental health leads and academics about the provision in England.

"The first comment I got," Nina said. "She stood up and she said 'I just want to say I'm so grateful that my children get to go to school here in Australia and don't have to go to school there in England'.

"That broke my heart as a mum, because my kids go to school here and I want them to get the support that they need.

"I want them to get the same support that the kids in Australia get, and I know all of us want that."

The 3 Dads Walking are undertaking their third walk hoping to raise awareness of young suicide, as well as money for the charity PAPYRUS (Prevention of Young Suicide), based in Warrington.

Mike Palmer from Sale in Greater Manchester, Andy Airey from Cumbria and Tim Owen from Norfolk, each lost their daughter to suicide.

Having already completed two walks across the country, covering almost 1,000 miles, they are now walking a further 500 miles, from Stirling in Scotland through the eastern counties of England.

As they walk they aim to raise awareness for their campaign to get suicide prevention taught in schools.

The 3 dads have set off on their third walk to raise awareness, and talk about, young suicide. Credit: ITV News

The lessons are something that are particularly pertinent to Nina, just days before she began a masters in mental health studies her brother took his own life.

Will was just 30 when he died in August 2021. His daughter Paige was just five at the time.

"He struggled, particularly since the lockdown, with his mental health, but I never in a million years thought that he would take his own life, never.

"You never think it would happen to you, or your own family."

Will Smith took his own life in August 2021, his daughter Paige was five at the time Credit: Family photo

Now a PHD researcher at Edge Hill University she is currently looking at where in the world suicide prevention is being taught well.

Nina has just returned from Melbourne where she believes if she have had those lessons she may have been able to help.

"In terms of my brother, I didn’t know the signs nor did his friends," she said.

"They didn’t know what to do.

"If they’d had that at school so so right what they’re saying the 3 dads but does need to be delivered in a safe way.”

The programme she witnessed is called MAPSS, which is currently being trialled in Liverpool.

"When I got to observe one of these lessons I was blown away, it's really life saving.

"Information in schools seem like such a good place to start and to have suicide prevention on curriculum I think would just be amazing."


Four out of five individuals considering suicide give some sign of their intentions, either verbally or behaviourally.

Suicide: What are the warning signs to look out for?

Four out of five individuals considering suicide give some sign of their intentions, either verbally or behaviourally.

Each tab below has signs to look out for in a person considering suicide.

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Suicide threats

Almost everyone who attempts or completes suicide has given warning signs through their words or behaviours. Do not ignore any suicide threats.

The following statements may indicate serious suicidal feelings:

  • “I’d be better off dead.”

  • “I won’t be bothering you much longer.”

  • “You’ll be better off without me around.”

  • “I hate my life.”

  • “I am going to kill myself.”

Suicide threats are not always verbal.

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Depression

Depression is one of the leading causes of suicide attempts. Mental or addictive disorders are associated with 90% of suicide.

One in 10 youth suffer from mental illness serious enough to be impaired, yet fewer than 20% receive treatment.

Depression can be exhibited in many ways including the following which are detailed in more depth:

  • Sudden, abrupt changes in personality

  • Expressions of hopelessness and despair

  • Declining grades and school performance

  • Lack of interest in activities once enjoyed

  • Increased irritability and aggressiveness

  • Withdrawal from family, friends and relationships

  • Lack of hygiene

  • Changes in eating and sleeping habits

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Anger, increased irritability

Recent research has identified a connection between interpersonal violence and suicide.

Suicide is associated with fighting for both males and females, across all ethnic groups, and for youth living in urban, suburban, and rural areas.

You should be concerned if a friend is exhibiting unusually irritable behaviour.

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Lack of interest

You should be concerned if a friend suddenly starts to lose interest in sports or hobbies that they used to enjoy.

  • The captain of the football team no longer wants to be on the team.

  • A dancer decides to leave the team because she does not like it anymore.

  • Your music-loving friend decides to quit the band.

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Sudden increase or decrease in appetite

  • A friend of yours that typically eats more than anyone you know barely eats or skips lunch.

  • Someone eating noticeably more without adding any additional exercise to their daily routine.

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Sudden changes in appearance

  • He/She is not dressing as they typically would.

  • Lack of personal hygiene.

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Dwindling academic performance

  • A model student suddenly failing classes or not turning in assignments.

  • Lack of concern for school, classes, and grades.

  • Grades dropping suddenly

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Preoccupation with death and suicide

This can be seen throughout their:

  • Essays and writings about death

  • Poems about death

  • Artwork or drawings depicting death

  • Social media posts and comments

  • Talking a lot about death or dying

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Previous suicide attempts

Youth who have attempted suicide are at risk to do it again.

In fact, they are eight times more likely than youth who have never attempted suicide to make another suicide attempt.

  • One out of three suicide deaths is not the individual’s first attempt.

  • The risk for completing suicide is more than 100 times greater during the first year after an attempt.

  • Take any instance of deliberate self-harm seriously.

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But, crucially the programme is being delivered by specially trained professionals, not teachers, which Nina says is vital.

"It's too important to get wrong, and it's too dangerous to get wrong too," she said.

"What the pupils say is they don't feel comfortable having the history teacher or their English teacher talk to them about mental health and mental illness."

It does cost money, but she believes the economic argument speaks for itself.

"From a tax payers point of view this is costing a fortune in the long run by now doing it now, and if Australia can do it why can we not do it?"


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


Edge Hill University is now looking at how it can train its teachers in suicide prevention and there is a growing movement wanting the same else where.

"The three dads are a testament to this," Nina said. "Don't ever think it can't be your kids.

"This is for everybody's benefit, because if it can happen to my family, and it can happen to their family, it can happen to anybody.”

Worried about mental health?

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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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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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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