Dads pen letter to prime minister over suicide education in schools

Tim Owen, from Shouldham, Andy Airey, from Cumbria, and Mike Palmer, from Manchester

Tim Owen, from Shouldham, Andy Airey, from Cumbria, and Mike Palmer, from Manchester, after completing their 3 Dads Walking challenge on October 23 - Credit: Danielle Booden

Three fathers who captured the nation's attention on a charity walk for suicide prevention have written to the prime minister calling for more mental health education in schools.

Tim Owen, Andy Airey and Mike Palmer walked across the country united in their grief to help others and make a difference, after each of their daughters took their own lives.

They set out to raise awareness of suicide in young people and to open up a discussion about suicide prevention.

Tim Owen, Andy Airey and Mike Palmer arrive in Shouldham, west Norfolk, clutching pictures of their daughters

Tim Owen, Andy Airey and Mike Palmer arrive in Shouldham, west Norfolk, clutching pictures of their daughters - Credit: Danielle Booden

Mr Owen, from Shouldham, lost his daughter Emily, 19, in March 2020 and shared his family's "absolute devastation" following her death.

Mr Palmer's daughter Beth, 17, died in the same month, while Mr Airey lost his daughter, Sophie, in 2018.

The three dads started their 300-mile trek in Cumbria on October 9 and completed their challenge in west Norfolk on October 23, raising more than £500,000 for suicide prevention charity, Papyrus - receiving support from celebrities including Daniel Craig and Nicole Kidman.

Emily Owen

Emily Owen. - Credit: Provided by the Owen family

Following their efforts, the fathers wrote a letter to the prime minister on Wednesday after hearing countless stories from those affected by suicide along their journey.

In their letter, they called for better mental health support and wellbeing during education for young people, and for the government to add the topics of mental health and suicide prevention to the curriculum.

Prime minister Boris Johnson is expected to delay the easing of lockdown that was pencilled in for J

3 Dads Walking wrote to Boris Johnson on Wednesday calling for better mental health education in schools and colleges. - Credit: PA

They wrote: "Every day on the walk we were joined by suicide-bereaved parents who shared their stories of shock, loss and grief with us.

"Each suicide was different (other than the outcome) but most shared one key element – that the young people who took their own lives hadn’t been given any support during their education that may have helped equip them to help themselves or each other.

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"Suicide is the biggest killer of under 35s in the UK. Why is this not addressed during school years?"

Mr Owen said they felt suicide was not a topic covered when it came to school children and young adults, and that it was a "conversation worth having".

He added: "Perhaps by talking about it we can prevent them, and pull people back from the brink.

"Everyone we've met en route seems to support us talking more openly about it, so we're passing that opinion on to government."

Speaking about the challenge, Mr Owen said: "We never expected the profile to be like this honestly, at the national level, but the fact it's being talked about means we've started conversations, and what we hope is those conversations don't just stop."

For practical, confidential suicide prevention help and advice, contact PAPYRUS HOPELINEUK on 0800 068 4141, text 07860 039967, or email pat@papyrus-uk.org.

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