Credit: Creative Commons
By Lauren Barcley
With this week marking Children’s Mental Health Week, there is perhaps no better time to highlight the change needed within our education systems around mental health.
This is exactly what Mike Palmer, a dad from Manchester, is doing.
Mike, alongside fellow dads Andy Airey and Tim Owen, previously embarked on a 300-mile walk, raising almost a million pounds for young suicide prevention charity, Papyrus.
Their walk attracted a lot of attention and earned them donations from celebrities such as Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig.
Known to us as the 3 Dads Walking, Palmer, Airey and Owen met after they each tragically lost a daughter to suicide, birthing determination to make a change.
This week, they continued their journey, this time not walking, but meeting with Minister of State for Care and Mental Health, Gillian Keegan.
With Papyrus reporting that suicide is the biggest cause of death among under 35s, Mike and the dads believe more education around the topic is needed within schools.
“Everyday we walked we were joined by suicide-bereaved parents,” said Mike. “They shared their stories of loss, grief and unimaginable pain. Every story was crushingly sad. Every story was different. But most shared a common element – little support for young people for their mental health and wellbeing during their education.”
Hearing the same lack of support from bereaved family’s day after day, the dads decided they wanted to do more.
And so, upon returning from their walk, they wrote a letter to the Prime Minister, asking him to ensure the subjects of mental health and suicide prevention are added to personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education.
This led to their meeting with Mental Health Minister Gillian Keegan.
Mike said: “We discussed bringing suicide onto the curriculum in a far more robust way. Gillian Keegan was very receptive. It was a very very positive meeting.
“Obviously it is only a start. We are very pleased with the outcome. Discussions will go on, and we are hoping to get another meeting very soon.”
HOPELINEUK, run by Papyrus, is a confidential support and advice service for children and young people under the age of 35 who are experiencing thoughts of suicide, or anyone concerned that a young person could be thinking about suicide.
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.
You can call 0800 068 4141 or text 07860 039 967. Lines are open from 9am to midnight daily.