he Government has been urged to include suicide prevention on the national curriculum following a campaign by three fathers whose daughters took their own lives.
MPs from across the political spectrum backed the call on Monday during a parliamentary debate on making the subject compulsory in schools.
Andy Airey, Mike Palmer and Tim Owen – who formed the Three Dads Walking campaign group following the deaths of their three daughters – secured the debate by filing a petition signed by nearly 160,000 people.
Opening the debate in Westminster Hall, Conservative MP Nick Fletcher said the Education Secretary had promised in a letter last week that the issue would be a “key priority area” in the forthcoming review of Relationships, Sex and Health Education (RSHE).
“I was delighted last week to receive a letter for the three dads and I from the Secretary of State for Education, who said that the Government will be including suicide prevention as a key priority area in their forthcoming review of RSHE, a move I greatly welcome. This is a real step forward,” he said.
He added that suicide was the biggest killer of under-35s in the UK, and he had spoken with experts who believe the content children are exposed to online means they need “tools to deal and help with this subject”.
Conservative MP Duncan Baker said the planned review should be “brought in as quickly as possible”.
Labour MP Rachael Maskell praised the work of the Three Dads Walking group, and said the debate would “probably be the most important of the minister’s time in this place”.
She said: “We know that talking is powerful, but without education of young people in knowing who to talk to and how to talk to them, and parents and teachers actively reaching out, we are leaving our young people in danger.
“It is time for walking to turn to time for talking.”
Deputy Tory chairman Lee Anderson also lent his backing to the calls, saying: “We need to intervene. We need to get this on the school curriculum and we need to save lives.”
Labour MP Debbie Abrahams, who also supported the request, tearfully shared her own family’s experience of suicide when her 20-year-old nephew took his own life.
“The earlier children and young people are aware of and understand their feelings, but also where to access health services when they need them, the better,” she said.
Mr Airey, Mr Palmer and Mr Owen started Three Dads Walking in memory of their daughters, 17-year-old Beth Palmer, 19-year-old Emily Owen and Sophie Airey, who was 29.
They want suicide prevention lessons – which are currently optionally taught to age-appropriate children – to become a statutory part of the curriculum.
– For anyone who needs help, Samaritans can be contacted for free on 116 123, emailed at [email protected], or visit www.samaritans.org to find your nearest branch.