Shouldham father, one of 3 Dads Walking, lobbies Boris Johnson for suicide prevention to be taught in school
Tim Owen, Mike Palmer and Andy Airey were simply 3 Dads who took on a walk in memory of their beautiful daughters Emily, Beth and Sophie, who all took their own lives.
Their original target was to raise some funds for Papyrus, the national charity dedicated to the prevention of young suicide.
They hoped to raise some £3,000 each. Now their Just Giving page shows they have pledges of £574,000.
In fact, altogether the current total is £808,128 for their 300-mile trek from Keswick (where Andy lives) to Shouldham, where Tim lives.
But for Tim and the other two Dads, it's not just about the money.There is much more to it.
With that in mind they have now written a heartfelt plea to the Prime Minister, asking for suicide prevention to be taught in the nation's classrooms.
He said the main aim of the cross-country walk was to bring awareness and open conversation about mental health and suicide prevention to avoid the devastation that the ripple effect of someone taking their own life creates.
The phrase 'committing suicide' is outmoded and apportions blame to a person who takes their own life.
Perhaps in a lingering echo of the times (up until 1961) where attempted suicide was actually a crime in England and Wales, suicide has remained a taboo subject.
Tim said education is key in tackling an issue that although is difficult, needs to be talked about.
"Suicide is the biggest killer of under-35s and 200 kids are lost to suicide each year. We need an open conversation with kids even though it is a scary subject to talk about. We are losing so many people. We need to have this conversation."
With first-hand experience of the devastation of losing his daughter Emily to suicide, Tim embarked on a positive approach to bring awareness.
He said: "Losing a son or daughter or loved one to suicide is a derailing event. A spur of the moment decision has a ripple effect, which is horrendous.
"Brothers, sisters, friends have to live with the fact their sibling, friend, loved one took their own life. When we were walking, people joined us who had lost a loved one maybe 60 years ago to suicide and had never talked openly about it and had been sitting on those emotions. It becomes a secret and so we need to take away the stigma that it is an offence.
"The reality is that the hole they leave is massive and absolutely devastating."
Part of handling the conversation about suicide is a simple updating of the curriculum to make people aware of what to do and say to someone who is feeling that they don't want to be here any more.
Tim said: "Say if there's a 16-year-old whose buddy says they want to take their own life, what does the friend do. If they sit on the information, as they also don't know where to turn, and the friend takes their own life, then the best mate lives with that for the rest of their life.
"If we open up and know where to go we can communicate.
"The whole point of this was that if our three girls had known about Papyrus, which has professional mental health experts to pull people back from the brink, then maybe a life could have been saved.
"If a person is feeling that they don't want to be here, that life is hard and they tell someone, then the person will know then there is a helpline that can offer support.
"This is useful to parents, friends or employers that there is awareness and support available."
The support shown to the 3 Dads Walking shows that there is a need to talk about suicide and mental health more than ever.
Tim said: "All three of us have spoken that if the girls had made the decision five minutes earlier or five minutes later it could have been so different.
"We'd never heard of the charity and if only we had, if only the girls had known, they just needed support.
"After Em died it was really hard, she was so caring, artistic and beautiful and she just couldn't see it. She spurred me on to be kind and to help other people."
If you are having thoughts of suicide or are concerned for a young person who might be you can contact HOPELINEUK for confidential support and practical advice.
Call: 0800 068 4141, Text: 07860 039 967, Email: email@example.com. Every day 9am to midnight.
Visit here for help and support
Here is the transcript of the letter to the Prime Minister:
Saving Young Lives
Dear Prime Minister
Having received correspondence via DCMS at your request we understand that you are aware of the 300-mile walk we have just completed to raise funds for PAPYRUS Prevention of Young Suicide and encourage open conversations about suicide prevention.
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.
Suicide is the biggest killer of under 35’s in the UK. Why is this not addressed during school years?
The current PSHE curriculum states that the education programme should “equip pupils with a sound understanding of risk and the knowledge and skills necessary to make safe and informed decisions” and that topics covered should include “drug education, financial education, sex and relationship education and the importance of physical activity and diet for a healthy lifestyle”.
Where are positive mental health or suicide prevention? If the most dangerous thing in our young people’s lives is themselves, why isn’t our education system trying to equip them to deal with this risk?
Will you ensure that the topics of positive mental health and suicide prevention are added to the PSHE curriculum?
Andy Airey, Mike Palmer, Tim Owen
3 Dads Walking