Three courageous fathers united by tragedy take on challenge to raise suicide awareness
[Oct 24, 2021: Mel Barham]
Tim Owen, Mike Palmer and Andy Airey who together will walk 300 miles from each of their homes (Credit: Three dads walking)
Three fathers, including one from Manchester, whose daughters took their own lives, are taking part in a charity walk to raise awareness of suicide prevention.
Mike Palmer, from Manchester, lost his 17-year-old daughter Beth to suicide last year at the beginning of lockdown.
Following her death, Mike met two other fathers who were going through the same devastating experience.
"It was like being hit by a wrecking ball. One minute I was a busy dad, the next minute I was in pieces, literally under the ground. The grief will never go. It's like having a Beth-sized hole inside of me", said Mike Palmer, dad of Beth.
Tim Owen, from Norfolk, lost his daughter Emily just days before Beth.
Andy Airey from Morland in Cumbria, lost his daughter Sophie three years ago.
The dads began talking about what they could do to prevent other families going through the same heartbreak, and set on the idea of walking from each of their homes in a bid to raise awareness for the suicide charity Papyrus. 3 Dads Walking was born.
Mike Palmer says: "All three dads believe if we'd had, as dads, more knowledge and awareness, and Emily, Beth and Sophie had more awareness and had known how to reach out, they'd still be here now."
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The challenge sees all three dads walking 300 miles from Cumbria, through Manchester and finishing in Norfolk.
The route will take them from Andy's home in Cumbria, through Mike's home in Greater Manchester and on to Tim's home in Kings Lynn (CREDIT: Three dads walking)
They are raising money for the suicide prevention charity Papyrus, and have already raised more than £237,000.
But it's not really about the money, more importantly the fathers desperately want to raise awareness of the work the charity does, and that help is out there for anyone who may be feeling suicidal.
"We're doing it because we're dads, and we're trying to make a difference", said Mike Palmer, whose daughter Beth died from suicide.
"Three Dads Walking is not a club I want to belong to, but along with Andy and Tim it gives us, as fathers, an opportunity to fight back and maybe make a difference.
“We are all too aware that there are more young people out there falling into despair and see no way out other than to end their own precious lives.
“We hope that by linking our three homes and telling our three daughters’ very different stories we will put a spotlight on young mental health and ultimately the brutal effects of suicide,” said Mike.
"Look at the options, please. There is Papyrus, there is Hopeline, there is help out there. Please talk, please reach out. There is hope and that's what Three Dads Walking is about, it's about hope." said Mike Palmer.
The walk in memory of their daughters Beth, Sophie and Emily, began on Saturday 9 October.
The trio began in Morland in Cumbria, the home of Andy Airey, where they headed south, walking through South Lakeland and Lancashire to Mike Palmer’s home in Greater Manchester.
After leaving Greater Manchester the 3 Dads Walking then went south east through Cheshire, Staffordshire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire before arriving at Tim’s family home in King’s Lynn.
Averaging 20 miles a day 3 Dads Walking aim to complete their challenge in 15 days, finishing their journey on Saturday 23 October.
"The reason it's between the dads and the daughters is to protect our families. Our families are valiantly carrying on with their own lives and it is tough.
"And I am so proud of them, and sometimes this 3 Dads Walking it is almost selfish of us dads do this but we're doing it because we are dads and we're trying to make a difference."
Every step of the way they will be remembering their daughters and supporting the work of PAPYRUS Prevention of Young Suicide; promoting the charity’s belief that many young suicides can be prevented.
Ged Flynn, Chief Executive of PAPYRUS, says the walk will be a life-saver.
He added: “Andy, Mike and Tim were leading different lives in different parts of the country and would probably never have met had they not been brought together by the tragedy and trauma of suicide which has shattered their lives and the lives of those around them.
“As 3 Dads Walking they will be able to channel their energy and focus on what they can do to help save young lives.
“It is remarkable that these proud fathers, who are each trying to deal with their own grief in their own way, have found a positive path forward together.”
You can find out much more about their stories, details of the route and how to donate on their website here.
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