Dad's heartache over daughter's suicide and his fight to help others

Tim Owen, from Shouldham, pictured with his daughter Emily.

Tim Owen, from Shouldham, pictured with his daughter Emily. - Credit: Tim Owen

A dad has shared his heartache after losing his daughter to suicide and his fight in her memory to save others before it is too late.

Tim Owen, from Shouldham, said his family has experienced "absolute devastation" following the death of his daughter Emily, 19, who took her own life in March last year.

Emily Owen, who an inquest concluded took her own life. Picture: Annabel Owen

Emily Owen, who an inquest concluded took her own life. Picture: Annabel Owen - Credit: Annabel Owen

The 51-year-old paid tribute to his "kind, very caring and bubbly" daughter, who used to "hold everyone's attention" behind the bar at The King's Arms in Shouldham. 

He said: "Emily just had no idea how many lives she touched and continues to impact.

"She was the life and soul of an event and our house.

Pictures of Emily supplied by the Owen family.

Tim Owen said his daughter Emily was the life and soul of an event and her house. Pictures of Emily supplied by the Owen family. - Credit: Tim Owen

"She had started to make great plans and, after leaving school and gaining some more qualifications, had made her mind up to help others by working towards becoming a nurse.

"She had said that she would volunteer to help in the NHS during the pandemic before the volunteer scheme had been announced.

"She saw that as a pathway into a caring career, something she would have been so, so good at."

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But behind that, Emily, who was diagnosed with autism at the age of 16, struggled to cope with life under lockdown.

Tim Owen hopes to raise awareness of suicide in young people in memory of his daughter Emily.

Tim Owen hopes to raise awareness of suicide in young people in memory of his daughter Emily. - Credit: Tim Owen

Mr Owen added: "She finished her CGSE's, she went to college where she got her BTEC,  she did an apprenticeship and then she started working at the pub, so everything was kind of going in the right direction. 

"But then it was the lockdown, where she saw everything she cared about, and her life as a 19-year-old disappearing."

He said she struggled with the combination of work disappearing as pubs closed, not being able to go to the gym and limits on where she could drive in lockdown.

Pictures of Emily supplied by the Owen family.

Pictures of Emily supplied by the Owen family. - Credit: Tim Owen

At the time, Emily's 25-minute funeral was attended by just six people due to Covid rules, though hundreds of people lined the village streets to show their respects, with locals later shopping and providing food for the family.

He said their loss "dominates" his and his family's lives forever,.

"The pain never stops, you just learn to live with the pain," Mr Owen said.

Tim Owen pictured with his daughter Emily at her fourth birthday meal.

Tim Owen pictured with his daughter Emily at her fourth birthday meal. - Credit: Tim Owen

"That will always be part of me, Em will always be part of me. 

"Life without Em is horrendous, because all the time you think about what she would have enjoyed.

"There's always a hole, and if you forget for a minute or do something and it takes you away, then it's almost like 'what have I forgotten?' and then 'oh yeah, okay', so it's always there."

Pictures of Emily supplied by the Owen family.

Pictures of Emily supplied by the Owen family. - Credit: Tim Owen

The 51-year-old added that the tragedy was compounded by lockdown as restrictions meant they were unable to see wider family and the normal support network from charities was "virtually non-existent".

"All we could see was our household, and that was horrendous, absolutely horrendous", he said.

"You go to your daughter's funeral, and by 11 o'clock you're back at home and there's nothing to do. There's no proper funeral, there's no wake, there's no getting together as a family."

Emily, who was born and brought up in Norfolk, used to play football in her village.

Emily, who was born and brought up in Norfolk, used to play football in her village. Pictures of Emily supplied by the Owen family. - Credit: Tim Owen

The west Norfolk dad said losing a child to suicide is "like nothing else on earth" and the impact is something families will have to live with "for generations".

"But I need to try to draw something positive out of it," he said.

Emily was described as a 'beautiful, funny, talented but slightly crazy young lady.' 

Emily Owen. - Credit: Tim Owen

Mr Owen will be walking for suicide prevention charity Papyrus alongside Mike Palmer, from Manchester, and Andy Airey, from Cumbria, for their daughters Emily, Beth and Sophie, who all took their own lives.

The three families hope to help others avoid the "life-shattering trauma of losing a child to suicide" and to raise awareness of suicide in young people.

Tim Owen, Mike Palmer and Andy Airey will be walking 300 miles for their daughters Emily, Beth and Sophie.

Tim Owen, Mike Palmer and Andy Airey will be walking 300 miles for their daughters Emily, Beth and Sophie, who took their own lives. - Credit: PAPYRUS

3 Dads Walking, which begins on October 9, will see the parents walk an average of 20 miles a day between their homes, with the aim of putting a spotlight on mental health by telling their daughters' stories.

Mr Owen said: "The scale of the problem is across the country.

"Those are three daughters who all took their own lives at different ends of the country.

Tim Owen is walking alongside Mike Palmer and Andy Airey to raise awareness of suicide in young people.

Tim Owen is walking alongside Mike Palmer and Andy Airey to raise awareness of suicide in young people. - Credit: PAPYRUS

"We're just three normal families that have been through absolutely the most devastating thing that could happen.

"Suicide is a taboo subject in a lot of places. If there's that many young people dying of it, it can't be taboo - we need to talk about it. It could be anyone's family."

Papyrus says suicide is the biggest killer of young people aged 35 and under in the UK, and aims to reduce the number of young people who take their own lives.

Emily's favourite flowers at the King's Arms in Shouldham.

Emily's favourite flowers at the King's Arms in Shouldham. - Credit: Sarah Hussain

Mr Owen said: "Our daughters all made a split decision to take their own lives. I'm sure if they thought about it, maybe they wouldn't have made that decision, and maybe they'd still be here. 

"If they had someone to phone, maybe the outcome would have been better."

In a message to her parents, Emily said she did not mind people knowing about her story if it helped others.

"I am following Emily’s last wishes by raising awareness of suicide," her dad said.

Mr Owen's message to people struggling

"If there's one other young person out there going through anything like this, know help is at hand, I'd point them towards Papyrus and their helpline, and to make that call.

"You might think it's the right thing at the time, but the devastation you will leave behind will be massive.

"Just seek help, you have got to. There's no embarrassment in seeking help, because you don't want to be in our position. Phone somebody."

For more on 3Dads Walking and the three families' stories visit www.3dadswalking.uk

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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