“Speaking saves lives – you’ve got be able to talk”: this is the powerful message from a dad who lost his daughter to suicide. 

3 Dads Walking met each other after their beloved daughters took their own lives in 2018 and 2020.

Andy Airey, 61, from Cumbria, Tim Owen, 52, from Norfolk, and Mike Palmer, 58, from Sale, have completed two walking challenges to raise money and awareness for young suicide prevention charity, Papyrus.

Their efforts have been in memory of their beloved daughters Beth Palmer, 17, Sophie Airey, 29 and Emily Owen, 19.

Beth, Sophie and Emily. Credit: 3 Dads Walking

Mr Airey told The Drop: “We’ve received a huge amount of feedback from loads of families who’ve thanked us for being open about our losses because it’s enabled them to have safe and open conversations with their children.”

The Dads have just completed a 600 mile walk through all four nations of the UK which raised over £880,000.

Tim and Mike met each other in 2020 through their daughters who had connected with each other on social media following the loss of their sisters.

They subsequently met Andy in early 2021, after Andy’s son, Gregor, was sat next to Mike on a suicide prevention training course at the Papyrus head offices.  

Mr Airey said: “We’ve been so open when we’ve been walking that we now trust each other completely.

“We’ve become very close friends and walking together is a very powerful and supportive thing.”

Credit: 3 Dads Walking

The trio completed the second of their walking challenges, after a 300 mile trek in 2021. 

Mr Airey said: “More often than not the walks are a mental challenge because there were so many emotional conversations that we were having.

“We were emotionally drained rather than physically drained at the end of each day.”

Andy lost his daughter Sophie, a nurse living with Edinburgh, after her divorce in 2018.

He said they were unaware of the struggles she was experiencing and they just wanted her to be happy following the separation.

Mr Airey said: “Sophie was just lovely. She was very loud, very brash, bold and funny.

“She was really sociable so she was really good fun to be with. I enjoyed all the time I spent with her. 

“She was going through a divorce at the time but we had no concept that she was feeling suicidal, we were just worried about her being happy. We didn’t know about the most desperate thing in her life really and it came completely out of the blue.”

Credit: 3 Dads Walking

The Dads have been joined on their walks by other suicide bereaved parents and supporters. 

Mr Airey said: “We’ve found it’s been a really powerful and positive thing for other people to share with us what they’ve lost. 

“For us, it didn’t feel like they were loading grief onto us. It was quite clear that a weight was being lifted off of their shoulders.

“It was a privilege to see, it was amazing.“ 

As well as raising money and awareness, the Dads have been calling on the government to make suicide awareness a mandatory part of the school curriculum. 

Jenetta Barry, 64, from Oxford lost her daughter Jenny to suicide. 

She said: “I give huge applause to 3 Dads Walking.

“I think it’s great that more and more people are coming out and making a difference for future generations.”

Credit: 3 Dads Walking

Their Government petition for suicide prevention to become part of the curriculum has now reached over 142,000 signatures. You can sign it here.

The Papyrus helpline can be contacted by calling 0800 068 41 41, texting 07860 039 967 or email pat@papyrus-org.uk. Open 9am-midnight 365 days a year.

The Samaritans helpline is also open 24/7 on 116 123.